Recently I wrote a column on how surprised I was that my job as mother didn't end when my kids grew up. They still need me in their lives, just as I need them in mine. It's good to feel needed, isn't it? The real surprise was seeing how much fun we have together as grown-ups.
Many of you wrote to say you feel the same way I do. I love it when you say that. Thanks.
And this note from a young mother filled me with feelings I'd almost forgotten. She wrote:
"I enjoyed your article very much. I read it while sitting here with my newborn, 3-year-old, and 6-year-old — wondering if I'd ever sleep again, or have a date night, and basically feeling tired and overwhelmed. It gave me perspective and cheered me up, largely because it wasn't one of those 'enjoy these moments because they go by so fast' articles. It was real and personal. Thanks for sharing it."
Her words reminded me of how it felt to feed a helpless newborn every two hours around the clock. I promised not to use her name, so let's just call her Lovely. Here is my reply:
Dear Lovely: Your babes are the same ages mine were a lifetime ago. I remember when my firstborn was 2 months old. He had finally fallen asleep after a half hour of screaming (his screaming, not mine, though I was close to joining him).
I held him on my shoulder, walking back and forth, never daring to sit down for fear he'd wake up. With my free hand (amazing, isn't it, what a mom can do with one hand?) I opened a "how to baby" book and read that at three months, babies don't cry quite as much. I thought, "Only one more month. I'll be dead by then."
The boy did indeed quit crying so much. He's now in his 40s and hardly ever cries at all.
I survived those sleepless years as a mother for him, his sister and brother and even for a few "orphans" who needed a home. There were so many moments that filled me with joy, and quite a few I'd rather not repeat. I'm not sure how I did it, but I did.
My grandmother had 12 children. I don't think she knew all their names. I once asked her for her secret of surviving motherhood. She said, well, she prayed a lot. And she dipped a little snuff. But mostly, she said, she made the older kids take care of the younger ones.
I tried that once. Not the snuff. I asked my daughter, who was 6, to watch her brother, who was 3, while I took a quick shower.
I showered in 30 seconds flat. The water never got hot. I came running out in a towel and found to my horror that my daughter had used her "child safety scissors" to cut every hair off the top of her brother's head. It eventually grew back in time for his wedding. I can laugh at that story now, but I assure you I was not laughing then.
On our worst days, surviving is the best we can do. When the house is a wreck and the in-laws are coming and the dog threw up on the sofa and the 6-year-old shaved the 3-year-old's head — we aren't doing bad. We're just surviving. It's called life. And it makes great stories to tell later.
I survived. So will you, Lovely. And so will my daughter-in-law, who is due to give birth to her second child soon, and has both hands full with her first. Jonah is almost 2, and can open any dead-bolted door in five seconds or less. When the baby comes, I'll stay with them for a while to try to keep Jonah entertained, or at least somewhat confined.
I never had much help as a mother (except from God, who probably laughed watching my daughter shave her brother's head). So I'm looking forward to doing what I can as a nana.
Thank you, Lovely, for helping me remember when my children made me feel so needed and why I stopped taking showers.
Here's wishing you and your babes all the best — grace and peace and joy and (please, Lord!) enough rest to survive.
Sharon Randall is the author of "The World and Then Some." She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.