This weekend we got a glimpse at how different our perspective can be at two different stages of our life. The grandparents took the three big kids for a sleepover, and we were left with only one child. Now five years ago when we had only one child, it seemed like the most monumental task in the world. Feeding, bathing, packing up to go anywhere, changing diapers, keeping up the house. You’d think we deserved a medal of honor for doing any of those things. Now that we have four, we wish we could go back and tell our one-child selves to appreciate it while we can.
Of course, there’s a learning curve with parenting like anything else in life. Part of the reason all those things seemed so difficult was because it was the first time for all of it. We were still learning the tricks of the trade and the shortcuts that would help us in years to come. But part of me also thinks back to the days when I just had Gracie. And she slept a lot. And I had no other children to feed/clean up after/entertain/keep from fighting while she slept. Ummm, what did I do with myself? I know I napped sometimes, and read way more than I have in years, and I don’t think I had a kitchen full of dirty dishes like the ones I’m ignoring right now as I write. I guess part of me just wishes I could have known how good I had it at the time.
It’s all about perspective. My sister’s first baby was born 11 weeks before my fourth, and it’s been a pretty good illustration about the differences in our perspectives. She’s a great mom and takes amazing care of my nephew. But when I called her and told her how excited I was to have only one kid for the night, I could tell she didn’t quite understand my enthusiasm. She has only one child every day, and it takes almost all the energy she has. My theory is that, just like your ability to love your children grows with each subsequent baby, your ability to deal with all their needs also grows as you have more. Things that would have seemed impossible as the parent of one kid become part of your everyday life with more.
For instance, now we get out the door for church every Sunday by 8:45 (ok, 8:55 some weeks), then we practice for Praise Team, teach Sunday school, and participate in the worship service. We do this with four kids, and when Gracie was first born, we could hardly manage to even attend church. At all. With a baby who slept through the service and didn’t fight over which clothes she would wear. What was wrong with us? Really, nothing; we were just normal first-time parents. I like to think maybe we’re a little tougher than we were almost six years ago, but if nothing else we’ve lived through the experiences of raising these four kids to this point, and maybe we’re a little smarter for it.
Our night without the big kids was really nice. We only had to get up for the baby, as opposed to the three to four other times the various other children seem to need us each night. We got to eat a pizza while it was still hot, as opposed to cutting slices into bite-sized pieces for three kids, the first of whom is ready for his second piece by the time you finish cutting the third kid’s first one. We even ate in the living room while we watched a movie with inappropriate language before the kids’ bedtime, because the kid who was still with us is too little to know the difference (at least I hope so, because they drop the F-bomb every 10 seconds in The Fighter). Perspective is an interesting thing, and we took a few minutes to appreciate how far we’ve come in the past six years. It’s amazing and pretty wonderful how different our life is.