I listened with envy and sadness. Life was so much simpler then. We didn't think it was. We looked at the moms with older kids and thought, wow, how great that you can actually read a book at the beach or pool instead of having to race after your child every second to keep them from drowning or eating too much sand. I am so glad I didn't know then what was coming. Now, for perspective, my life is considerably more challenging than most mom's lives. I am not discounting that just being a mom even to just one can be nerve-wracking. There is no more difficult job than raising children, of that I am convinced. My husband tells me my job is much harder than his. It takes everything you have and more. And if you are trying to parent well, then just double the work.
But add in a special-needs child, and your life is really not your own in any way shape or form. You have a ball and chain around your ankle that sometimes feels like it weighs two hundred pounds, but is always there and will be for a very long time, into their adulthood. You passionately love them, would spend whatever money you have to give them to best treatment and education possible (and often money you don't have), but at times you resent them and just want a week or a month to yourself.
I am already planning some trips while she is gone. One for Bill and I for our anniversary weekend, one for me to visit my old college friends, another with my rising middle schooler, Jane, before she becomes too cool for mom, and one for my oldest daughter and a couple of her friends to celebrate her sixteenth birthday. That is a lot to cram in three months, but I feel the urgency of making up for what we haven't been able to do with Caroline in our midst. And we will take her on a special trip when she gets back.
I have a new neighbor across the street who has quickly become a good friend of mine. She has a baby and a toddler, and I often go over there to hold and love on her kids because it just feels so good to be close to that soft baby skin and those toddler ringlets you can't resist tugging at. I am vicariously remembering the sweetness of those brief years. That's why I love that my nine and eleven-year old daughters still have huge imaginations, creating giant jungle scenes in their rooms with their myriad of plastic animals. Or it may be barn week, where they pull out their solid wood barns and all of the fencing, creating amazing pasture scenes that go from one end of their large room to the other. And somehow they know each of these hundreds of animals by name. We take great delight in their girlhood, and we want to encourage their naivete as much as possible. Jane will be in the sixth grade next year but we can't even picture it. There is nothing middle-schoolish about her and we love that. Our oldest grew up too fast much as a result of the chaos brought into our home by Caroline, so to see this lengthier transition with our youngest two makes my mommy heart happy.