I have the best sister-in-law I could have ever wished for. She is warm, loving, kind, funny and incredible with my kids. She has always been wise about life and perfect with how she gives her advice – never pushing it on me, but rather dropping it like pebbles in a pond, letting me study the ripples and take in the patterns for myself.
When my kids were still 7 and 2, she told me that young children were tiring, but it was when they got older that it got exhausting.
She said she thought her kids needed her when they were little, but she realized that they actually needed her so much more when they were older. If she’s never been wrong before, why then, did I completely write off her reflections? I know why – I didn’t want it to be true!
Bah! She just didn’t remember the bone-weariness that came from toting a baby on your hip while simultaneously trying to wrestle another kiddo into the bath. Or how about scrubbing blowouts out of pants and cleaning Goldfish from under the car seat? That’s enough to make you want to hibernate, right there!
My oldest is now a 13-year-old seventh grader, and is in, what is essentially, her first year of middle school. Let me tell you. I have never known tired like this before! True, it’s not the baby’s up at 1:00, 3:00 and 5:00 a.m., but it is EXHAUSTING. My girl is a chatty one, so there is a steady stream of, “Let me tell you what happened today!” and, “Can you believe she said that?” And, my least favorite: “I think I like this boy. What should I do?”
Our afternoons are filled with a download of information, which spills into talking out various social scenarios and how to handle them. After dinner is cleaned up, and her younger siblings are shipped off to the showers, it’s time for homework. Homework is started independently, but rarely completed without a call for assistance.
The shower seems to be a good place to remember things, because we usually get another earful of information before she finally calls it a night and heads off to bed. We used to read her a bedtime story, but now that she’s older, she prefers to fall asleep to music. However, there are still the occasional nights that we get called in for one more sharing of something that is on her heart.
It’s beautiful to be so needed. It is a privilege to be the one she wants to hold space for her feelings, worries and thoughts. And, at the same time, it is exhausting. For her and for us.
My sister-in-law was right. I thought my girl needed me before, but now I feel how truly much more she needs me at this stage. When I get especially drained, I try to take a step back and remind myself that this too shall pass. Each conversation we have now, each bit of guidance we give now, is leading her to a time and place where she no longer needs us like that. And, as exhausted as I am, when that time comes, I know I’ll miss the nights when she came down with just one more thing to say. When she had just one more bit of her heart she had to share. When I remind myself after a long day that this too shall pass, suddenly something shifts and I realize that this too shall pass.
And I settle back on her bed to hear a little more. Because I can. Because for that moment, I’m glad that the moment hasn’t passed.