Four doors. Four passengers. I watched the small black Kia back out of my driveway this New Year’s day. I held up my cell phone, putting my thumb and pinky to my ear as I mouthed, “Call me when you get there!” As the car turned out of our cul-de-sac, waving hands and thrown kisses disappeared and my heart dropped just a bit. Four of my six daughters were in that car. On a 150 mile journey to see their oldest sister, married with 2 girls of her own and living in another state. Another state that required a drive on treacherously busy highways, over the Bay Bridge and then the backroads of Delaware. I wasn’t sure which part worried me the most. At the wheel, my 19 year old, Cassidy, served as chauffeur to her sisters, Sheila, 17, 14 year old Shannon and Star, 10, the youngest of our clan.
Somehow, during the early years of child bearing and child raising when life was a blur of diapers, nursing, bottles, car seats, nap schedules (my ironclad rule in our house—you WAKE the baby, you TAKE CARE of the baby!) and juggling as balls dropped on all sides of me, I thought how much easier mommyhood was going to be as the girls got older and didn’t require so much “hands on” care. Little did I realize what a delusion that was. Maybe it’s better that way. A little delusion can be a healthy thing when you’re up to your eyeballs in Pampers and Beanie Babies and “quiet time” means the baby slept three hours straight. Only in retrospect, can I see that in some ways, it was easier. For a period of time. For a very brief time. Physically.
When my older girls reached high school, the youngest was born. Always great helpers, the older two took on the roles of “second mommy” to the youngers. Note to young mothers: while the workload increases with each child, so does the “live-in help”! And a little training goes a looooong way–it is worth the time it takes to teach even small children to do simple chores. They are often capable of doing far more than you think. Please resist the urge to “redo” their work—if they’ve made the bed and it looks like someone left a load of blankets from the dryer on top, encourage and instruct, but don’t redo it yourself—that is so discouraging to a young child who is learning. And really—will a “perfectly” made bed matter in 100 years? 10 years? 10 minutes?
As the years passed–and they passed so much more quickly than I could have imagined during the early years when all I wanted was 10 minutes alone in the bathroom–parenting changed. And parenting changed for each individual child as I learned the hard way that each was very different. “Lord,” I asked more than once, “with six girls, don’t you think I could have had just a couple ALIKE so I didn’t have to figure out this parenting thing over and over again?” He said no.
Each of my girls is very different—they don’t even look alike. They range from dark haired, dark eyed and olive skin down the spectrum to blond, blue-eyed and fair. (Once, when the older two were small, a visitor to our house indiscreetly asked my husband if one of the girls was from his “first marriage.” Why yes, actually. That would be me.) In personality, there are some similarities, but certainly there are no duplicates. The girls range from strong-willed, extreme extrovert–take charge and take no prisoners–to quiet, meek and an unassuming “servant behind the scenes”. Interests and passions cover a range as well. From the daughter whose entire room is her closet, filled with an ever growing collection of clothing, shoes, a plethora of accessories, hair tools, makeup, etc. and who could easily take the runway in a Paris fashion show to the daughter who doesn’t even care to wear makeup and owns but a few articles of clothing by choice. One daughter doesn’t own a single book and another would be quite at home having challenging theological and literary conversations with CS Lewis and Tokein as she has not only read (and owns) all their works several times, but nearly memorized many. There are a multitude of other differences that will be the subject of future blog posts, but for now, my point is simply that in the mothering of six daughters over the last quarter century, I have learned much, failed often, cried many tears and laughed until it hurt. Nothing moves a mother like motherhood.
As the Kia turned the corner, it carried my heart. My four “youngest” daughters—the only ones still at home—and one of those only on college break—had left. The silence of my house was deafening and unusual. After 20+ years in a house always full of children and their friends, when it is suddenly empty—and this is a rare event—the reality of how quickly the years are flying—hits. And honestly…it hurts. As I process through many of the changes and challenges that our family is currently experiencing—and there are many—this blog will, I hope, serve as an open, real, humorous, painful, honest look at life as a mom from a mom who is at both the end, middle and beginning of the journey.
Oh, there will be practical things too. For example, one of my favorite organizational tools is clear vinyl over the door shoe pocket holders—you know, the kind you put your shoes on to “hang” over the door? I use these handy (inexpensive) holders over the door in my linen closet to hold everything from band aids to bath salts—in the past have used them in the children’s room to hold socks, hair supplies, etc., the bathroom for each child to have a couple of pockets for their own toothbrush/toothpaste, hair brush, deodorants, etc. and the playroom to hold an entire population of Barbie-type dolls, Lil Ponies, etc. As long as you don’t let it become a “collector of junque” it can be a great organizational tool that even the youngest toddler can use successfully. But back to our story…
Interspersed with the “hands on” will be the “hearts here.” It’s where I was. It’s where I am. It’s where I’m going. Join me?