I watch my son pick a dandelion from the front yard by the birch tree. I know what he is going to do next. He can’t resist. It’s in his nature to stir the stillness. Without hesitation, he lifts the dandelion seed head to his mouth and casually blows on the white, feathery seeds. The bristles float in all directions, covering several feet of grass as they land. My husband can’t stand this. He knows that this will only multiply the dandelions in our lawn –making it look exceptionally flawed in comparison to our neighbor’s perfectly manicured emerald carpet. But there is something beautiful, almost magical, in watching a child unknowingly propel new life into the air with a simple breath. And although my son is not one to make wishes on the seeds that he sends into the air, I certainly am.
Twenty months. For the past 20 months I have started and ended every single day with the same wish. I wish to have time to write. I wish to have time to work at my laptop writing in the morning, drinking a hot cup of coffee before everyone wakes. I wish I could ignore the daily household chores while the baby naps and take that time to write outside on the front step with a pen and notebook. I wish I still had energy left in my body and soul at the end of each long day to spend a couple hours drafting the essays that I write in my head while doing dishes, folding laundry, and playing with my children.
Time. There just never seems to be enough time in a day. There is always something else that could have been completed, or started. But time sets limits to what we can do, and many days, all I can see are my limits. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Shower, watch children, and go to work. Laundry, dishes, and cleaning. Emails, bills, and appointments. Planning, planning, and planning. These items are all priorities. My family needs to be fed. Our bills need to be paid. We need to take care of our house. The list goes on, so I continue to tackle “the list.” But the list does go on, and it always will.
I’ve spent the past 20 months making every excuse not to write, and my biggest excuse is time. There are so many priorities in life, especially when you are raising a family. Your first priority is supporting your family with their basic needs. That in itself is a huge task that entails making money, operating a household, and giving your love and attention to each family member’s beautiful soul. And as a mother, I often lose sight of other priorities that need my attention too. I look at my day and plan out everything that I need to do in order to take care of my family, but I forget to do the same for myself. And even though I am in the thick of motherhood, I am human, and I need to allow myself to make my needs a priority too. But how do I find or make the time to do this?
Time. There will never be enough time. There will never be enough time with my kids. There will never be enough time to work on the house or garden. There will never be enough time on this earth. Time places limits; it’s a form of measurement that fills our days. And many days, all I notice is the time. Is it time to wake up? Is it time to leave the house? Is it time for lunch? Is it time for the baby to take a nap? How much time do I have while she naps to accomplish all of the items on my to-do list? Is it time for my husband to get home from work? Is it time to get the kids ready for their evening activities? Is it time for the kids to go to bed? How much time do I have left before I should be going to bed? What time do I need to set my alarm for?
There will never be enough time to write, especially if I continue to measure my days by looking at the time in this way.
My son picks another dandelion, this time near the row of hostas leading to the backyard. And I know what he is going to do next. I’ve witnessed it countless times this summer, and countless times the summer before. I pick a dandelion, too. We breathe in, exhale, and release the dandelions’ seeds into the air. They float for a few seconds before landing in the grass. Over time, dozens of more dandelions will be waiting to be picked next. They will be waiting to be chosen, to be given life with a new breath of air. And the words will float and fall onto the page all in their own time.
She’s here. The wind gently whispers her arrival, and the first set of leaves begin to fall. I push the stroller with one hand, hold my warm mug of coffee in the other, and slowly make my way back home. The big kids are at school now. For the next few hours they will play, learn, and make friends. All on their own. For the next few hours, it’s just me with my baby daughter and baby nephew. We will eat, play, sing, and read. Fingers crossed they will nap well too. Our walk is quite peaceful this morning. It’s just what I need to settle into the day. It’s just what I need to get ready to greet her: Hello, Autumn.
The tree-covered path is still damp from yesterday’s rain. I maneuver the stroller to avoid the muddy patches, but notice that the tires have already begun to collect the first fallen leaves. I watch the brown and yellow colors spin with the wheels as I continue down the path. Some remain stuck to the wheels while others slip off. A gust of wind releases more leaves into the air. I reach out to touch one. It is time to welcome this new season.
The last time the leaves began to change and fall, I was preparing to greet my new daughter. I could hardly wait to see the brilliant shades of orange, red and yellow. I could hardly wait for her arrival. And finally, one October day a big gust of wind came and she was here. I held her tiny body close to my chest while the final leaves fell. I watched her so close, waiting for those first smiles and intentional movements while the snow covered everything around us. Then fresh buds began to speckle the bare branches, and our baby girl delighted us with constant babbling and her growing personality. As the temperature began to rise and the trees became lush with leaves, I watched my daughter learn to crawl, pick grass out of the lawn, and feed herself watermelon. And now, well now I’m listening to her say “Wow!” as she notices the leaves too.
Autumn is beautiful, but the perfectly crisp morning air and vibrant colors never last long enough here in Minnesota. The changing of the leaves will peak soon, and before we know it, the branches will be bare once again. We hold on tight to this fleeting beauty, and we are abruptly forced to let it all go. I watch another wave of leaves fall around us. These leaves that were not here last year and are now suddenly ready to be released from the branches they grew from and clung to over spring and summer. They are released, and more leaves will grow next year, and the year after that. And while I’m reluctant to accept that this season is already beginning to swiftly flee, this new season does bring the promise of space and time for new leaves to grow.
I push the stroller through the waves of falling leaves and acknowledge that this beautiful season with my third baby has already begun to culminate too. She is inching closer to toddlerhood. There are many more firsts to come for her, but this first wave of firsts is so precious. With each child, I held on so tight to their first big moments, and with each baby time forced me to let go so quickly. It all begins, and changes, and passes by swiftly. The leaves continue to fall and glide through the air around me. I collect a few from the damp ground as I make my way back home. These leaves are lovely, and although they are released too quickly, they are mine to press and keep forever in my heart.
I remember the days when it was just you like they were only yesterday. But now you start your own adventures, just you, without me.
Do you remember when it was just you, my son?
Do you remember how I gave you all of my hugs? How my eyes watched you always? How I loved only you, my child?
You are my first. You will always be my first. And while you are no longer my only, you are the one who made me a mother. You are the one who changed me forever.
You were my first pregnancy test. You were my first oh-my-goodness-what-the-oh-my-am-I-ready-for-this-holy-cow-I-hope-I-am-because-this-is-so-freaking-amazing-but-oh-shit-what-the-oh-my-okay-this-is-happening-for-real moment. You are the first.
You were the one to give me my first worry as a mother. You were the first to tear my heart open in a way I never knew was possible. I thought I lost you. As quickly as I discovered that I had been gifted a new purpose, I thought that purpose had been cruelly stripped away. I thought I was losing you. I thought you were gone. The doctor on the phone thought so too. So your daddy and I made a late night visit to the emergency room. I was broken. And within a few hours, I saw your tiny heart beat on the screen, and I could breathe again. You were there. You were so tiny, your heart was beating fast, and you were there.
You were the first of my children to hold. I loved you before you were born, but when I held you for the first time, well, that moment was the first. That moment was the first time I discovered how intoxicating the scent of a newborn can be. That moment was the first time I understood how intense motherhood would be and how I would never be the same. That moment, my son, you gave that to me.
Do you remember when it was just you?
Do you remember how I smiled when you said your first word? Do you remember how I clapped when you took your first step? Do you remember how I cried when you got your first big owie?
You are my first. Together we’ve seen so many firsts. And now you are the first to begin your own firsts in the big world outside of our little home.
I will smile, I will clap, and yes, I will cry too when I watch you enter those school doors on Tuesday for the very first time as a kindergartener. We’ve had so many firsts together, but this is the first time when I will not be there to see many of your firsts. This is the first time since leaving my full-time job to be an at-home mother when I will not have one of my children with me during the day. These past two years all of my days have been spent with you and your sister, and for the next few weeks until the baby arrives, it will only be me and your sister at home –without you. It will be a lot quieter; perhaps too quiet. It will be less tiring for me; perhaps not tiring enough. Your sister and I will still have many adventures, but our adventures won’t be the same without you. You were the first to make me want to soak up as many adventures as I could while you were young, while you were only mine, while we had these days before kindergarten and scouts and soccer practice and Sunday school.
Oh, my son. I will smile, I will clap, and yes, I will cry too for so many reasons when you enter those school doors on Tuesday. I will smile because it makes me happy and proud to see you so excited to start school. I will clap when you share your accomplishments with me. And I will cry, maybe not in front of you, when you share how your heart hurts. You are my first, and this is a new first for us. You will experience new firsts on your own, and I will be here for you when you need me. We can smile and clap and cry together, but my son, it’s just you again. You get to do this on your own. You get to do this without me.
I will smile to encourage you that you are ready for this. I will clap to remind you that I am so unbelievably proud and excited for you. And I will cry when you walk toward your teacher and classmates because I will miss you. I will miss sharing so much of each day with you. These past two years as a stay-at-home mom have been a gift. It’s been fulfilling and trying and exhausting and inspiring and full of adventures, and it’s been amazing because you’ve been a part of it all from the very beginning. This journey started with you, and now it’s time to let you start your own journey.
Remember when it was just you and me that moment when you were first placed on my chest? I do like it was just yesterday.
I love you, I’m proud of you, go get ‘em my little Jedi. When you get home I’ll be here to smile with you, clap with you, and cry with you if you need me to. And when I tuck you in at night, please don’t mind if I hold you a little longer and tighter against my chest.