Yesterday afternoon was exactly the kind of afternoon I needed. My husband was able to take a couple hours off of work and, loving and gracious as he is, let me leave Riley with him and take off on my own for a little while. I decided to go swim laps at the pool.
I had the pool all to myself, which I’m pretty certain was a sweet little gift from God. I just needed space to be alone. The water was so refreshing, it felt like some of my worries from the day started to melt as soon as I dove in. Now before you go and act all impressed by me, know that I am not a lap swimmer kind of gal. I’m not very good at it, I just flail around ungracefully and pant like an old dog or something when I come up for breath. Nevertheless, I felt a strong need to do something that would be simultaneously active and restful and swimming seemed to fit the bill. And it worked. The exercise, cool water, and alone time really helped to relieve some tension from the day and made me feel refreshed.
If you were to watch a silent video of my day yesterday, you would probably be confused. Why was I having a hard day? On the outside, it probably looked like a fine day, an enjoyable and easy one even! But if you were to have an audio recording of my thoughts, you would see the real picture.
Earlier in the morning, I had taken Riley to meet a friend at the library for storytime. Although storytime had apparently gotten cancelled, we still stuck around while the kids played. Well, my friend’s kid played anyway. Riley pretty much just pulled books off the shelves and I had to try and stop her from ripping the pages out.
We were not the only ones who seemed unaware of the storytime cancellation, we were surrounded by other moms with their kids. To my left and right, in front of me and behind me were moms with their little toddlers. And it freaked.me.out. What I did not see in front of me was the life I had always dreamed of, being a stay-at-home mom. What I did see left me feeling completely overwhelmed.
Lately I have been so aware of the fact that Riley is becoming more of a little person and less of a baby. I know that this should be exciting, and in many ways it is. But it is also scary and sad to me. Not because she is growing up too fast (although she certainly is, and that does make me emotional!), but because I am not ready to be the mom of a toddler. See, I’ve never actually enjoyed toddlers. I’ve obviously never been a mom before (this is my 1st time, in case you weren’t aware 😉 ) but I have nannied and babsat a lot in my day and I’ve just never loved the toddler stage. I’m just not a toddler person. I’m a baby person. Though many of my friends had told me that they were happy when the newborn stage passed, I am mourning it. Call me crazy, but I LOVED age 1-6 months! Years 1-3 are my least favorite ages of a kids life. Once they’re 4 and older I enjoy it, and as I mentioned, when they’re younger than 1 I LOVE it. But my baby is closer to being in the 1-3 year age range and I am just not ready for it. I’m not ready to run around chasing her all day, saying “no” all the time, and having to plan “activities.” Just the word “activities” mades me cringe a bit as I write this. No, I just want to hold my little infant 24/7 who will fall asleep in my arms. I want the life where she basically just nurses and sleeps, where I hangout with my soul mate mom friend while our babies are just content to lay in our arms. The life where I have an excuse to nap during everyday and I often do it with my baby in my arms or by my side.
But Riley doesn’t fall asleep in my arms anymore. As a matter of fact, she does not even want me to hug her unless she is hurt or sick. She is fighting for her little independence and getting into ev er y THING! Everything. And the life I loved for 6ish (give or take) months is slipping out of my hands.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it will be an amazing thing to watch Riley grow with each new phase of her life, even the toddler phase. But… I just don’t know how I’m going to do it. I have no idea how to be a mom to a toddler. When I would babysit for toddlers, I could leave at the end of the day and have weekends off. When they had discipline problems, that was up to the parents to figure out. But now I’m the parent. There will be no nights or weekends off. I’m nervous. And I’m sad. So I cried. I cried in my car on the way home. And I cried when I got home. And just when I thought I was done, I bumped my knee on the dresser, which made me cry some more. Not because it hurt that bad, but because it just took so little to push me over the edge.
At the end of swimming my laps, I ended up just floating on my back in the water for awhile. My ears under water blocked out all the busy sounds of the world, and the sky was a beautiful, crisp blue with few clouds. I get overwhelmed when I think about all I have to “do” as a mom, but in that moment I could just… be. I think I took a long, slow breath for the first time that day. Because looking at the sky reminded me Who is in charge, and that He will always have my back. He promises us, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.” (from 2 Cor. 12:9). I may not know how to be a mom to a toddler, I may not be that good at it, and even if I am I may not enjoy it that much. But I want to join Paul in saying, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Many Christians will say, “God will not give you more than you can handle” but I don’t think that is actually true. I think sometimes He does give us more than we can handle because then we see our limitations, our humanity, and our need for Him to handle it for us. I think that it is in the things we cannot handle that we experience His grace the most powerfully.
So that’s where I am today. Standing in front of a big mountain that I cannot handle on my own, completely dependent on Him to help me with the climb.