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Mendo Lake Family Life

Toddlerhood Is Beastly—But You Miss It When It’s Gone

By Janeen Lewis

When my daughter, 10-year-old Gracie, was small, her energy knew no bounds. Recently I found an essay I wrote when she was a toddler and I was beyond tired. I’m sharing it in the form of a letter to her. Whichever challenging stage of motherhood you’re in, hang in there! It will get better, but beware: when it does you may miss what you have now.

To Gracie at 20 months:

I was once the queen of multitasking, but today you dethroned me. I barely cleaned up one mess before you made another, and I’ve collapsed on the couch after 10 hours of chasing you. I tell myself that someday you will grow up. Life will get easier.
One day when you’re older, I won’t stumble over pots and pans littering the kitchen floor. You won’t run through the house, throwing squeals of laughter at me, your feet shoved into my missing oven mitts.

One day, you won’t jump on the couch, and I won’t have to leap across the living room to catch you before you fall. You won’t smother the cat with your entire body weight while I pry you away from the love of your life. One fine day, I’ll retire as the cat’s bodyguard.

There’ll be no more January battles over putting on snow boots not a bathing suit. (And no more summer strife about putting on a bathing suit not snow boots.)
You won’t tap out a tune on the answering machine buttons (a feat I didn’t know was possible until you walked) while I sort laundry, or reach for the biggest knife when I open the dishwasher. While I put the dishes away, you won’t try to climb into the dishwasher.

I can only imagine life without reams of unwound dental floss and unrolled toilet paper. I’ll watch movies that star Chris Hemsworth, not Elmo and a gang of fuzzy monster puppets singing about “the potty.” I’ll have a bathtub without toys and a carpet without Play-Doh.

One day I’ll drink my morning coffee in solitude. Okay, so I won’t hear the shuffle of your footie pajamas. I’ll probably miss that. And I’ll get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour. But you won’t wrap your pudgy arms around my legs, burying your face in the bend of my knees while I cook. I won’t replant the petunias you bring me (roots and all) as love tokens. Surely I won’t miss that, right?

I want you to grow up for more reasons than my own. I want you to live a beautiful life that touches others. That’s one of the many reasons I had you. But what will happen when I actually get my wish, and you’re older?

What will it be like without the sound of your little fleet clunking around the house in my shoes? How will I feel when your chubby fingers don’t twirl the ends of my hair while you fall asleep on my shoulder? Who will stand at the door and blow me kisses while I’m at the mailbox?

Every day the challenge of your determined spirit motivates me to grow into the person I want to be. Each stage of childhood brings another obstacle to overcome, and every day that I help you grow, I feel a contentment I’ve never known. Each step, each word, each nuance—everything that becomes a part of your personality is a celebrated milestone for both of us. Being a mom has brought more fulfillment to my life than any of my other roles.

Finally, I leave my comfy spot on the couch and tiptoe next to your crib. I don’t see the fireball that blows through the house during the day. I see a sleeping angel with a halo of golden brown curls.

One day when I’m not so tired, when the house is still and I have endless hours to myself, I won’t think about the messes or my exhaustion. I won’t wish away time.
I’ll remember it all and wish for one more day of chasing after my baby girl. 

Janeen Lewis is a nationally published freelance writer.