As a parent, I have been blessed with immeasurable "gifts" as a result of having kids. I am thankful every day for my little family. I'm grateful for what my children bring to my life and for the ways in which they have influenced both me and Cliff. I love seeing Cliff as a Daddy, especially since he didn't grow up around lots of little kids the way I did. When I was 10 years old, my sister-in-law and my twin nieces moved in with us, while my brother finished up his service in the U.S. Navy. I now have 19 nieces and nephews and was babysitting neighborhood kids by the time I was 11 years old. Cliff wasn't really exposed to little kids until he (an only-child) joined my crazy big family (I have nine brothers and sisters). He had no idea how much fun he was going to have with us! :)
Along with all of the "blessings" that becoming a parent has brought to my life, I'd be lying if I said I didn't also give some things up or dare I say, lose a bit of myself. I remember thinking of friends of mine who were having their kids long before I was and feeling like they had sort of lost their sense of self and had become "just moms". Not that being a mom isn't huge and amazing and deserving of a super-hero cape. It's just that some women tend to lose sight of their own interests, hobbies, passions, and lifestyles when they get so engulfed in being the best parent they can be. I'm not talking about the women who give up the typical behaviors of some twenty-somethings once they become moms. I'm not talking about giving up the late nights of going out dancing and drinking or the realizing that your own home and your own bed are much more appealing than spending the night somewhere else or realizing that your body doesn't handle Cheetos and Mountain Dew for breakfast quite the way it used to or that those extra 15 pounds from winter eating don't come back off quite as easily as they used to.
I'm talking about the things that define you, the things that make you who you are. Your real interests and hobbies and what makes your heart go pitter patter and what makes your brain tick. Ten years ago, I could rattle off a "list" of my interest like nobody's business... camping, rock-climbing, painting, learning new crafts like throwing pottery, rehab-ing furniture, wild-life photography, gardening, hiking, scrapbooking, kayaking, reading, hunting... the list goes on...
Today, if you ask me what my hobbies are, I'd say... spending time with my family. Playing with my kids. I do still do some "hiking", but that is now more like a walk in the park than really hiking. I still do some gardening, but it's just barely maintaining the plantings in front of our house. I even abandoned the vegetable garden last year, knowing I wouldn't be able to keep up with it with an infant to care for.
I know that some of this is just due to time constraints and the natural lifestyle change of living with other people who can't physically partake in all of the activities that I'm interested in. I have hope that some of it though, can be preserved, if I really make an effort. I used to be the first one outside in the winter time with my camera on a frosty morning. I wanted to soak in the solitude of the quiet snowy morning, capture the beauty of Jack Frost's artwork on every tree, fencepost, and pine needle. These days, however, I end up looking out at all of that beauty from a chair in the living room as I give Addison a bottle, or read a story to her. I used to really love to paint and have dreamed of painting some canvases for my kids' bedrooms, but have you tried finding a "safe" place to paint with a five year old and a one year old on the loose? If the little fingers didn't end up in the paints, then surely some Nerf darts or matchbox cars would! I hope to take a little more time for me this year, for the things that make me tick.
I wake up by 7:00am every morning. no matter what time I go to bed. I don't want to wake up at 7:00am, but I do. I don't wake up cheerful and ready to sieze the day, by any means. I wake up appreciating the morning sunshine and the quiet solitude of early morning (okay, I know 7am isn't really early), but yet I don't want to get out of bed. I like to lay in bed for a long time, watching the sun come up, maybe, sipping coffee (wish I had a bedside Keurig!), maybe reading, closing my eyes once in a while, thinking, thinking, thinking, daydreaming, planning, thinking, imagining. Early morning in bed is my soul-finding time, my time for me, the time my brain, heart and soul needs in order to find and focus on what is important to me and what makes me who I am.
Some nights before going to bed, I beg my husband to be the one to get up with the kids in the morning, because I know that I need sleep! I can think of nothing nicer and more restful than sleeping in until 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning! Until I wake up at 6:00 or 6:30 or 7:00 and can not go back to sleep! He agrees to get up with the kids (even though I have to elbow him to wake him up since I wake up at the slightest little coo from Addison or the sound of Gavin's little feet pitter pattering up the stairs from his room, and Cliff doesn't usually wake up until Gavin is in our room asking for the iPad or Addison has ben screaming for 10 minutes), but I still wake up and then can't go back to sleep. I do occasionally lay in bed on my own for awhile when he is up with the kids, but I find myself listening to their conversations, what they're having for breakfast, wondering if Addison'd diaper has been changed yet, etc. You might call me a micro-managing Mom. I try not to micro-manage. Cliff is a REALLY amazing Dad. He just doesn't always do things my way and of course, my way is the right way! Kidding!
Waking up every day by 7:00am is just one more thing that changed when I had kids. I became the one who hears every coo, every door unlatch... I swear I can smell a poopy diaper from the next room. I'm sure I can hear Gavin stir in his bed when he inadvertantly pushes the blankets off himself and then starts to feel chilled. It's a blessing. Yes, it is. ...but it is also a challenge to keep sight of my own interests and passions when time and effort are focused on the other people in the house and sleep is elusive. I'm going to keep working on that this year. Making a deliberate effort to find and do the things I love. I plan to craft, to paint, to hike, to snowshoe, to be the first one outside on a frosty winter morning, to photograph the sunrise, to reclaim the bits of me that have been hibernating this past year (and then some!)
You with me????