Learning to Embrace the Present While the Past Fades Away


She was my little side kick.  We went everywhere together every day.  If I went to Target, she went to Target.  If I had a doctor’s appointment, she was the one collecting the sticker at the end.  We were two peas in a pod, and now at six years old you can clearly see that influence.  I’m sure that will change at some point, but in this season of our lives, my likes are her likes.  That’s just how it is with an oldest child.  With no older kids to emulate, she emulates her mama.

Yesterday she started first grade, and today is her first full day of school.  We aren’t new to school.  She went to a year of preschool, and she was in kindergarten last year.  But those were all half days.  By the time we got home from dropping her off, it was practically time to get back in the car to pick her up.

Those were baby steps into the world of school for her, and they were baby steps into the world of mothering a big kid for me.  Now we are in the big time with a packed snack and a lunch and a little girl who comes home just a couple of hours before dinner time, not all that long before her daddy comes home from work.

I never expected the silence in our house.  After all, I have a one year old and a three year old.  By almost every measure, the six year old is the quietest and the least needy.  But when we walked in the house this morning, the silence was deafening.  My ears weren’t bombarded with long drawn out stories, and I didn’t have pictures and stories flung into my hands. I could walk through a door without the risk of having her fall on my head as she climbs the doorways.

It’s hard being a stay-at-home mom to little kids.  It’s hard having to take an entourage to every single store and every single appointment and on every single errand.  It’s hard not having a moment’s peace to yourself until 9:00 at night and then often having that peace disrupted by cries in the middle of the night.  It’s hard.  It’s really, really hard.

But what they don’t tell you is how hard it is when all of a sudden you have a little bit of time.  When all of a sudden, you might notice three minutes of silence.  And most of all, when all of a sudden you have one less person to care for during the hours of 8:30-3:00.

I had to schedule a check up for my youngest daughter.  I scheduled it on a morning when my oldest will be in first grade and my middle child will be in preschool.  That way I only have to corral one little child in a room too tiny for a doctor, a mama, little kids, and a stroller.  But I almost started crying when I was speaking with the receptionist.  This is what I had wished for.  A calm doctor’s appointment.  A little time to breathe.  And now I’ll have it.  And now I wish to give it back.  Now I’ll gladly embrace the chaos and the noise and the confusion and the tears (both theirs and mine) because it would mean that they were all with me, under my wing, where I can watch them and protect them and mother them from up close.

My oldest child is six; my youngest is one.  There is a fairly good chance that we will have more little babies in the future.  My time as a mama to very little ones is far from over.

But yet still it’s transitioning.  Slowly but surely, we are moving away from that delivery room six years ago and we are moving into a future that is unknown and a little bit scary.

And I’m reminded yet again of just how difficult motherhood is.

It’s a never ending string of bursting moments.  Some of them bursting with pride, others with angst.  Some with joy and some with tears.  And some bring us to the brink of the unexpected.  I think it’s all that bursting — all of that raw, overwhelming, unencumbered emotion that makes motherhood what it is.  Raw and real and intense and alive.  Heartbreaking and heart filling and heart wrenching.

We spend most of our lives planning our lives.  Anticipating the future.  Planning for the future.  Driving our days towards destinations we plan out.

And then we have kids.  And it’s not only that we are no longer the drivers, now we no longer even know exactly where we are going.  All we know is where we have been and where they have taken us thus far.

Today and yesterday I have found myself grieving stages past, fearing that the future will hold heartbreak and loneliness and goodbyes.  But then when I open my eyes and I look around, I see that the past is, indeed, gone.  But it’s replaced by a future filled with new adventures.  It’s filled with learning and excitement and sharing.  It’s filled with tales of best friends.  It’s filled with knock knock jokes that go nowhere and drawings of images she has seen out there in the world without me.  Just as she taught me six years ago what this world is all about, now she is showing me parts of the world that I haven’t seen, or at least haven’t seen with mama eyes.  Yet again, as always, she is making my world bigger, more vibrant, more real, just by being in it.

It’s different, but still, it’s beautiful.  And I never would have gotten to experience this new morning had the previous mornings not faded with the night sky.

And so I find that I must learn to trust again.  Learn to trust myself and learn to trust my children and learn to trust life and its ability to unfold as it must.

These days are full of leaping into waters unseen.  But we know how to swim.  And I believe the adventure will be worth the leap of faith.

4 thoughts on “Learning to Embrace the Present While the Past Fades Away”

  1. Oh, my Amanda when I first began reading your article I thought you had a kid going off to college! I’m afraid your experience of a “quiet” house is much different from mine. One day you’ll look back on this time and smile at your notion of quiet. Enjoy your girls because the only true parenting maxim is that the time really does go fast.

  2. Dear Amanda,
    Learning to Embrace the Present, the past has faded away. My eldest daughter (of two) died last year in a car accident, in Croatia.
    Mothering after death holds all the anguish we dread. Rivers of tears, mounds of tissues, and a lot of travel, and serious documents arranged in foreign languages. The driver survived, he and his car are Italian. My daughter will never return from her travel adventures, this time. We always wonder, from the moment we are moms, what will happen when they are away from us.
    Accomplishing tasks related to her death is the last of my work for my first born, and there will be none of the grand babies like she wanted.
    Her little sister lives far, we talk by phone, sometimes…and it’s been ten years since my nest emptied. Embracing the Present, I am hollow. After mothering, defining who I am remains mysterious as conception and life itself. Embracing hollow, I hold nothing. And empty vessel, Zen, I find meditation and yoga sooth my frazzled nerves.
    The Past Fades away, but not really. Memories fill my hollow yearning for that past, as I move forward, carrying the weight of grief. Mother’s are strong. We endure, and as a single mom even more, I was often seen as bossy… Ha Ha, I was the manager, the guide, the responsible accountant. Time with daddy was fun, spending money on amusements momma couldn’t afford.
    From this hollow legacy I am encouraging young intelligent families to have more children, to share more love, to enjoy the journey. We do not know when the Never-ending Silence will come.

  3. This article touched me. Thank you for sharing. You expressed some similar feelings that I had with my oldest of three children. Trust comes in time and with lots of prayer and reflection. It is so hard to give up some of that time and control sending littles off to school. The future is bright for your daughter and your adventure of mothering continues in each new stage for you both. God Bless!

  4. As you can see from my e mail address that I’m a grandma of ten,but since I set up this account it’s actually 11. When my oldest child left for college I didn’t think I’d ever feel such deep fear,happiness and finally hope for the future. Three years later it was my only sons time to leave the nest,he didn’t go quite as far to college as big sister but I was still all of the above feelings. The fall of 2000 I sent off my identical twin daughters to the same college as their big sister was at,I knew they we’re going to be okay because they had each other,so as the years rolled by my hubby and I grew used to the long periods of silence. We now look forward to the noise of 11 grandkids,four kids and spouses,but when they have all gone hubby and I look at each other and smile because the silence is of us moving on. This will happen to you so just love them now,enjoy the quiet moments and the loud ones and know that one day there will be the joy of being with your growing family.

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