I sort of have two sets of kiddos…I like to call them my Bigs and Littles. Between daughter number two and daughter number three there is 4 1/2 years. Sophia is 4 years younger than her closest older sister and 4 years older than her little sister. She is sort of too young and too old all at the same time. She is Sophie in the middle. More on that later. Most of the time I put Sophia in the Littles category…she is 8 years old. But, I suspect that this year things will change. 3rd grade is a transitional year. That leaves Elinor 4, and Samuel 1. My babies. Technically Elinor is a blossoming toddler, approaching 5, but she is still little in the sense that she needs and loves lots of attention from mommy.
And that brings me to the dilemma,or problem of this post…
Mommy’s attention, a commodity supplied to meet the needs and wants of the family. A mom of many must have expert skills in commodity logistics. She must learn how to distribute her attention well which encompasses a skill set that includes: time management, prioritizing, and conviction.
As I had more children I began to feel the pull and tug on my attention, and it irritated me… you know, those prickly moments when one thing has to be abandoned to meet the need or want of a baby. I guess this is a growing stage for mothers, learning how to let go of self-direction and will and softening to the self giving style that characterizes all good mothers. Something inside of my mommy heart began to feel guilty when I dismissed a cry or arms up waiting to be scooped up. I quickly submitted to the reality of motherhood…babies are demanding and they deserve my full attention. I say no plenty, but it is not my style. My style with babies is…yes!
When I step back and look at the very nature of child development it seems that babies deserve the most attention simply because they demand the most attention. This is the natural way. This can only be accomplished in large families if I also follow the natural development of my older children. I must let go of control and allow for independence. Letting go of my older children is difficult for me…I know now it has everything to do with letting them grow up…I don’t want them to grow up so fast…it goes by so fast.
Dealing with my emotions as a mother is essential if I am to be a healthy mamma to ALL my kiddos. So for me putting babies first is possible only if I accept the natural development and growth of a family. In a way motherhood is a long goodbye. I am ultimately raising children to be adults. Letting my older kids be more independent, and trusting what I have already put into them is essential for the health of the family.
There are other instances where babies interrupt the practical goings on of a household. Like how they always want you when you have plans to tackle the laundry pile on your bed, or the mountain of dishes in the sink, or the weedy flowerbeds. Babies make me look very deeply at what I value and what it means to be human. We are all dependent on each other, no human can survive alone. Babies are so vulnerable, and they personify in a very dramatic way how vulnerable we all are. Babies teach me the delicate balance between the unseen and seen world. Yes, the physical needs of a child must be met, but not at the expense of the heart. Finding this balance is what motherhood is all about. We are caretakers of the highest order.
The decisions I make in the way I homeschool must include the babies…and not just putting them on the block schedule and fitting them in. No, babies come first…because they demand it. Because they need my full attention. Because my heart tells me that the kind of human being this baby will become is deeply connected to how I respond in all the little moments of interruption.