I stole the idea from Beth's blog (http://notabowinsight.blogspot.com/). When I read hers, it made me think of how much my life has changed and how much I've changed since having Jess seven and a half years ago. And how much Sam, and then Julie have influenced me, my choices, the way I handle things. I'm not the kind of mother I always thought I'd be, I'm both stricter and more relaxed than I anticipated, and my life has taken turns and changed me in ways I wouldn't have believed. I'm much more selfish now, about my time, my emotional energy. I feel like my kids, my marriage have supplanted so much of who I used to be. People I used to drop everything for either adjusted to the change, or dropped out of my life entirely.
I'm a lot more relaxed about parenting than I would have thought. Most of that is Sam, I think. I had to become that way, or I would have died of a heart attack before he was a year old. He'd crawl on top of everything, jump off of furniture, he was so much more physically assertive than Jessie was. I get angrier than I would have thought I would, sometimes Jessie's temper tantrums can push my buttons faster than I would have thought possible. I'm smug (hopefully just in my own head) about how smart and gorgeous and funny and kind my kids are. And mortified and embarassed by their behavior - in my own head, I feel like everything they do and say is a reflection on how I'm raising them. Intellectually, I know that their personalities are their own, and there's only so much of it that I can be blamed for or take the credit - but deep down inside, I think I have the ultimate ability to influence their behavior, and when they fight or scream or misbehave, I blame myself.
Jessie changed the way I interact with so many people. She was (and still is, along with her brother and sister and their dad) the most important thing to me. What's best for them became my litmus test when it came to making decisions. Not all the time, but most of the time. Jessie is the reason for that. Having her changed the way I dealt with the world. If I didn't make her the top priority, nobody else would. And she deserves that. Jessica made me selfish, made me protective of my time and emotional energy, Jessie taught me to say no to things/people who wanted me to drop everything and help them. She copies so much of my personality, she taught me to be aware of what I was saying and what I was doing, because she's learning how to be a woman by watching me.
Sam made me patient. Sam taught me to trust my kids, to give them space to figure things out. He taught me that by letting go a little bit, I give my kids the freedom to fall, to get up again and learn to do things. He forced me to relinquish control. He made me feel needed in a way that I hadn't been before, by nursing for three plus years, and defending that choice to everyone. Sam taught me, in a way that I couldn't have understood before having a son, how incredibly important his daddy was in raising him. Jess was and is a Mommy's girl, but Sam needs, wants and worships his dad in a way that's unique to him, and I'm forever grateful that Marc is the man that he is.
My Julie - my tiny baby girl. I'm more relaxed about her. I've learned enough to know that mothering is a lifestyle, that every little choice isn't that critical. That's it's okay to trust my instincts, it's okay to throw out the advice and rules about parenting - it's perfectly okay to not have a crib for her, to wear her, to nurse on demand. She's so much easier, in so many ways. She doesn't have the health problems that Sam did, with reflux and colic. She's not my first baby, so I feel like I know what I'm doing now. I'm enjoying her babyhood so much. I'd say that Julie is teaching me to live in the moment - to enjoy every second of it.
I've learned that pacifiers can be a lifesaver, that nursing is something that's so incredibly worth fighting for. I've learned that cosleeping is the only way to go. I've learned that there's nothing more important than reading to your kids, and that making them hate you is sometimes necessary. I've learned that it goes by so fast, and that this is a time in my life that I'll never get back. There will be time for all the things that I'm NOT doing now, time for college classes and lots of grown up girl time, time for sleeping late and morning sex. There will, please God, be a time when my living room will stay clean for more than ten minutes at a time. I've learned that a marriage is more than falling in love, it's a hard, hard thing to do sometimes, but so incredibly worth it. That having a partner in life, not just for parenting, but for everything, makes it so much easier. I've learned independence, I've learned about strength and about tenderness and hugs and kisses and so much joy and love.
I wouldn't trade the last seven years for anything - and thank God for them every day. And if I'm very, very lucky, I'll have another eighteen years or so of raising these kids, and then I'll get some gorgeous grandchildren. And every minute that I'm not out having grown up girl time, morning sex, or taking college classes, I'll spend with them :-)