I admit it. I’m the first to complain about the challenges of raising young children. The whining. The feelings of entitlement. The sweet and sour of sibling relationships. The constant demands for…well, seemingly everything. The feeling like your time is rarely your own. It can be overwhelming at times and certainly trigger thoughts about how much we’ve “sacrificed” to raise these two children, as wonderful as they are. It’s so easy to get caught up in your own reality, until you run into something that gives you a different perspective on reality and makes you appreciate what you have.
Ian finished kindergarten today. While I was well aware that the start of kindergarten was an emotional thing for many parents, no one ever mentioned that the end could be, well, also “strange.”
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think it’s something about experiencing for the first time how quickly the school year passes. One day you are buying supplies for their new classroom and a fast 9.5 months later, they are celebrating the beginning of their summer vacation and looking forward to the next grade. And so it goes. Suddenly, something you thought was so far away you couldn’t even begin to imagine it, is imaginable: graduating from high school and leaving the nest. Or not, as the case may be.
I know, I know. Perhaps I shouldn’t get too ahead of myself…he did just finish kindergarten, after all, so clearly we’ve got a while to go yet. Still – I suspect that other parents who have been through this know what I’m talking about. Ultimately, I’m taking it as a friendly reminder to appreciate this time we have watching our kids grow up because it will be over before we know it.
A few months ago my friend at work who is a former stay-at-home-mom (and in the process of becoming a single mom) asked me if I ever felt guilty about the time I spend at work away from my kids. It took me approximately .53 seconds to answer, “No.”
Having been through the stay-at-home mom (SAHM) routine longer than I originally intended made me 185% certain that I am not SAHM material. I refuse to feel guilty about saying that I don’t want to spend 24/7 with my children. I need another outlet. Some don’t. I do. It makes me a better mother. That, I know. To each their own.
It helps that I have a job that fulfills me, and that both of my children are in places that both Jeff and I feel at peace with in terms of knowing that it fulfills their needs. One day not too long ago I left work a little early and picked Ian up from after-school care. His greeting: “Mommy, why are you here early today? I didn’t get to finish playing…” And while Elena often greets us very enthusiastically, we don’t leave the building before she proactively hugs every teacher in sight who bid her farewell by name. She’s happy, and that makes us happy. However, had my friend asked me that same question earlier this evening, for the first time since I’ve been back to work, I may have hesitated with my answer.
A Portland couple recently received national – even international – attention over a landmark court case involving their young daughter. The 4-year-old girl, their third child, has Down syndrome, which was unknown to them during the pregnancy. After their daughter was born, they sued their health providers for allegedly assuring them that they would have a normal, healthy child following genetic test results (a CVS), despite the fact that two later ultrasounds apparently raised red flags for Down syndrome. Apparently they were also told that there was no need for them to get an amniocentesis for further testing.
A week and a half ago, a jury unanimously awarded the parents $2.9 million against the local health system to pay for the extra lifetime costs of caring for their daughter, admitting that had they known they would have a child with Down syndrome, they would have aborted the pregnancy.
When I started back to work last January, I spent the first few months thinking I had everything amazingly under control. Really. Work…two kids…this was doable. What’s all that complaining I hear about how hard it is to manage and juggle everything? This was going to work out just fine!
Then one day – I think it was this fall when Ian started kindergarten – I had some random minor breakdown in the car or something when I realized….okay, maybe this is not as “fine” as I thought it was and in fact, it is, kind of hard.
Of course the next thing you always hear is how kids #2, #3, #4, etc. etc. get increasingly less attention than the first one did. Of course – not me! Both of my kids were going to always get equal attention. Well, if that were true then perhaps I would not currently feel like the most negligent. parent. EVER. I mean, I’ve so had three strikes with poor Elena that I’m surprised St. Andrews hasn’t called CPS on us yet. And, all within the month of November.