I remember the beginning years of parenthood: beautifully memorable but also achingly exhausting. One minute you find yourself laughing hysterically because your toddler made your baby giggle, and then crying the next because your toddler missed the toilet (again) and you find yourself covered in pee. The feeling of never being caught up with laundry, meal planning, and dishes is overwhelming. But new parents, trust me: in a few short years, you will find yourself in the sweet spot. And somehow, it brings a sense of peace, accomplishment, and even longing for those tough days in the past.
For years when my kids were younger, I wanted to cry while emptying the dishwasher. There was something about this task that got to me. The constant bending and reaching. The fact that I had to do it almost every day. Or how it's incredibly mundane. I'm not sure why, but tears would bubble over my eyelids and stress would knot tightly in my shoulders each time I knew I had to tackle this chore. What I've realized is that it was a perfect metaphor for motherhood in the early years — constantly bending and reaching.
We bend for our kids, and while we're grateful to be mothers, we still tend to lose ourselves in the process. We are constantly reaching, too. Not just to put the glasses away on the top shelf, but for everything. We're reaching to be better mother, to get better at self-care, to get the promotion, and more. But in those early years of motherhood, it often feels like we can never stretch our arms long enough to grab what we want. It's all just too much.
But I've found that once the kids are out of the preschool years, something magical happens — the whole family enters the sweet spot. While I'll admit that there are days I miss those baby and toddler years (like the sweet baby smell and those chubby thighs!), the sweet spot is pretty much my jam. My kids, a kindergartner and second-grader now, are blooming into these beautiful people . . . like actual human beings. They have their own thoughts and ideas, they can articulate their needs, and honestly, they fulfill a lot of those needs on their own now. It's pretty freeing when they can get their own snacks, wipe their own butts (without the skid marks), and make their own beds. No, things are definitely not perfect, but it makes all of that hard work in those early years finally worth it.
You see, when you find yourself in the sweet spot, you'll notice something pretty lovely — your kids still want and need you, but they have also found their independence. My kids, for example, can get themselves all ready in the morning before school, but they still demand hugs and kisses from me before hiking to the bus. When they're feeling sad or frustrated, Mommy is still the person who will make it all better. At night, they still beg for "just one more kiss." And because I know that the sweet spot won't last forever, I almost always give in.
I know that the unruly tween and teen years are just around the bend. I may only have a couple of years like this before my oldest enters upper elementary and doesn't even want to be seen with me, let alone give me a hug and kiss in front of his friends. But until then, I will relish in this sweet spot and focus on building family memories because I know they're finally to the ages where they'll remember them, too. While the sweet spot is far from perfect, I think it's there, sandwiched between the exhausting baby years and rebellious teenage years, to remind parents that our job is to love and help our children become humans who will make our world a little better.
In motherhood, the bending and reaching never goes away. You don't magically have it all together or achieve everything you've always dreamed. But once you enter that sweet spot, and your kids start to help you unload the dishwasher — you realize that because you're raising them right, they start bending and reaching for you, too.