Sometimes I look at the kids and see these incredible angels who I can’t wait to get my hands on. I want to soak in every word of Jack’s elaborate, creative, never-ending stories about dinosaurs and snuggle my big, squishy baby boy Gus. I want to always remember every detail of the path to Ellie’s wobbly walking and her animated expressions.
Other times, I just wish that I was back living alone in my quiet apartment in my late 20s when I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted with whoever I wanted.
Jack began the summer with fewer freckles on his nose. Ellie was unable to stand for longer than just a few seconds and had a feeding tube. Gus was just a tagalong without his own ideas about life other than eating, sleeping and pooping. We were all hunkered in at home along with Ben’s work and I was just trying to survive it all.
Now they are all so much bigger – physically, emotionally, in ability but also in their presence. I look at them now and think, “What did I do to deserve this?”
In the moments, it means that I am asking, “What sin am I paying for today?” In reflection, I think about how different I am from who I was before Jack was born and how grateful I am to have these kids to fill my time. When I watch them sleeping, I sometimes have to stop looking because I can’t take it – I love them too much.
When Ellie was a baby, I distanced myself. I was scared of her. When she left for the children’s hospital right after she was born, I tried not to get too invested because I was afraid that it may not work out. In her first year, I saw her as a part of our family that I was obligated to support but not necessarily part of me. Now, I can’t imagine myself without her. She was always meant to be mine.
Jack and I have been spending a lot of time together. When Gus and Ellie are in school, our favorite thing to do is go on park crawls, hitting as many parks as we can in those few hours. At first, I cautioned him to “be careful” and “hold on” when climbing the ladder to the top of the tall spiral slides. Watching him make his way up a rock wall one day, I realized that he had grown up. His physicality is such that he doesn’t need me to fill his head with doubt. He is innately cautious but sure of his ability. I am so proud of the person he is becoming.
Even Gus is making his way now. He can keep up with the rest of them and is quick to hoard his favorite things. He keeps secrets and hides in Ellie’s room to play with her toys when no one is watching. The baby who cried all of the time now cries a little less than most of the time, and I find myself feeling more and more mesmerized by his sneaky grin.
For months we have spent all of our time together. We developed a routine that includes a little bit of alone time for me with each kid every day. Not all days are good days, and we laugh, cry and yell. While I do most of the crying and yelling, when I think back on the spring and summer, I needed the slow down of our lives.
It didn’t slow down time though. The summer flew by and the kids need me less than they did at the beginning.