Dear Allysha in 2002,
On the 23rd of this month you will have your first baby, a girl. You will love her and adore her. You will be in awe of this little person who is completely dependent on you. You will be so tired. It’s okay. You’ll do fine. You’ll survive the sleepless nights with a few good movies that you watch in 10 minute segments while your baby eats. (I suggest the A&E Pride and Prejudice.)
In six years you will have not just one, but four little kids. “Yeah. Right,” you say. But it’s true; you have three who run around crazy and free and a baby just learning to crawl. All of them have the capacity to be very loud. Occasionally you’ll find yourself looking in the mirror at your reflection and saying “I have four kids.” Don’t be surprised if sometimes your reflection laughs and says “yeah, right.” (You will have figured out how to nurse your baby in bed while you doze, so that’s something!)
There are days when you will feel overwhelmed and be absolutely exhausted. Little children are demanding and require a lot of hands-on, in-your-face work and attention. But if you let them, your kids will teach you to be more selfless, patient and loving than you could otherwise become. Let them teach you. It’s okay. Pray a lot. You’ll do fine.
Your children desperately love you, but not enough to learn how to do the laundry right now—except for coating it with their yogurt from lunch. Just take the shirt off and throw it into the hamper. If it’s just too much—and sometimes smeared yogurt is—grab a pillow, go into the bathroom and shut the door, and scream into said pillow. Then make a face at yourself in the mirror as you go out and hopefully, chuckle ruefully.
Being a parent is about seeing both the forest and the trees. You have to pick your battles keeping the future, as well as the present, in mind. It’s not easy. Chocolate milk may not be the evil you think it is. Just limit the chocolate to milk ratio.
Avoid the ‘me vs. them’ tug-o-war. If your priority for the day is your children, you’ll all be happier. Let them help you with your work, they love it. The oldest kids, ages almost 6 and 4, can help with a lot of things (cleaning the bathroom is a favorite). Not only are you teaching them how to work, but you are spending some good time together. Multi-tasking. It’s a beautiful thing.
Get a hobby that you can do on the side (I suggest blogging). Just don’t get lost in it. Bedtime stories are important. It’s okay if you have to skip them every once in awhile for the sake of your sanity. Be flexible. Be gentle, with yourself and with your kids.
The amazing and witty Erma Bombeck was once asked what kind of mother she was. “Who knows?” she wrote. “I showed up for it. I worked a lot of overtime.” This is an intense time of your life. Show up for it. Work a lot of overtime. Love it, love them. Get a nap in every once in a while. You’ll do just fine.
Allysha in 2008
Allysha recently moved across country from New York to Utah with her four children and her husband, Ben. She makes various kinds of oatmeal cookies and blogs at bellsontheirtoes.blogspot.com.