This past weekend, I was able to meet my new niece, Adeline, for the very first time. She’s already 8 weeks old, but because she lives in Southern California and I’m in Northern California, I haven’t been able to meet her until now. She’s still little, which means many of our conversations consisted of me telling her about the world, and she pooping in my arms.
Adeline is now the 3rd baby in my family, but there are 15 years between her and my youngest kid. I had my kids young. I was 20 when my daughter was born (she’s now 18), and 23 when my son was born (he’s now 15). Back then, I had no idea what I was doing. I had parenting books that contradicted each other. But that didn’t matter because I just read them and did what I wanted, anyway. We made so many mistakes back in those days. But we also did what was right for our family. We must have done okay, because the kids are still alive. 🙂
My sister, Melissa, and I are in completely different worlds right now. She and her husband are adjusting to a sleep-deprived schedule of feedings, diaper changes, and tip-toeing around the house while the baby is sleeping. Everything revolves around their new daughter, and 5 minutes of personal time is now a luxury.
I’m on the other end of the spectrum. I went through the sleep-deprived and kid-centric schedule while my peers were making questionable choices in their college years. But it all paid off. While my peers (and sister!) are having babies now, I’m preparing for the empty nest, and experiencing tons of free time. Well, sort of. I’m busy, but it’s with my own stuff instead of a crazy kid-filled schedule. I did my time in the mommy groups, as a school helper, on the sidelines of the soccer games, in the audience of the dance recitals, cheering on the baseball teams, and struggling through homework I no longer understand.
Now, my kids are leaving the dependent stage and becoming more like friends. They choose to hang out with me, instead of tagging along by obligation. My daughter, who works at Whole Foods, now takes ME shopping (organic food at an employee discount!). My son asks to go out to coffee with me, even offering to pay just so he can have some mom-time (and probably because that’s a sure way for me to insist on paying). They negotiate with me instead of just going along with whatever I say. And while I am sometimes frustrated that it’s not “my way or the highway,” I think I prefer it this way.
They also have their own lives, spending a lot of time with friends and away from the house. I’m starting to get a feel of what it will be like when they’re on their own and my husband and I get to enjoy a quiet house. It will be both wonderful and a bit too quiet. I know I’ll miss laughing at my son’s everyday inappropriate jokes, or letting off steam through a venting session with my daughter. But I also know we’ll all survive this next stage of life, just like we’ve survived all the previous ones.
One thing’s for certain – I am so glad to be done with the baby stage! Being around Adeline, I was reminded about how much work caring for a baby really is. Every second of every day was devoted to her needs. During my stay, I did my best to help my sister with a few household chores, loads and loads of laundry, sorting baby clothes, and taking turns rocking Adeline when she was fussy. But I think the one thing my sister appreciated the most was when she got to spend an hour coloring her hair and taking a long, hot shower while I took care of the baby. She may not get this chance again for awhile. But no worries. In 18 years she’ll have her time back again. 🙂
Meanwhile, I need to figure out when I can see this sweet little girl again. Her baby years are going to pass by in the blink of an eye! After all, I blinked and now my baby is going to college.