Something Always Brings Me Back

I was awake at 4:00 a.m. the other morning. This is not unusual as Baby E has never been a great sleeper. I don't mind, though. I know soon enough he will wake in the night and not need me to soothe him back to sleep.
I know that all too soon those sweet, middle-of-the-night moments will be over, and he won't be my baby anymore. He'll be my little guy, dreaming little guy dreams that don't require Mommy's cuddles to get them started.
So, the other morning, when his cries woke me, I went to him right away. And we rocked and we cuddled. And we both drifted back to sleep.
Then, somewhere in that hazy place between wakefulness and sleep, I felt a memory of a simpler time. A time when Joey, Slim and Knox were all under three, and we had just moved back to Nebraska after being in New York for two years. A time when the double stroller was my fourth constant companion and trips to the park were a daily outing.
I must have smiled in my sleep remembering how we would take walks on the trail next to the park (for Mommy) as two rode in the stroller and the third would be perched on top of the cup holder (held in place by Mommy, of course).
You're laughing. Kathy, how was that simpler than cuddling with one little baby?
Because it just was. There was time for daily trips to the park. There were daily walks because everyone was portable. It was a time of Playhouse Disney and Curious George and everyone agreeing with everything Mommy suggested.
I don't remember it being difficult or complex at all.
It was before Sponge Bob and I Carly introduced sarcasm and insults. It was before homework and soccer and Cub Scouts kept us too busy to go to the park. It was before phone calls from the teacher and behavior charts and trips to the behavioral psychologist.
It was before cancer and medication and negativity changed us.
I thought about it all day, that time in our lives, and it kept me smiling.
And then, when I was swapping out a broken picture frame, I found this picture hidden behind a more current one:
Knox (23 months), Slim and Joey (age 3)
And it brought tears glistening to my eyes. It was not for Joey's presence in the picture. I actually never liked that picture of him. I remember being upset that he wouldn't put his hands down. It was mostly just seeing the three of them, in the midst of that simple time.
But it was Knox, too, and that cherubic face and those huge, innocent eyes. They brought me back to a time when he was happy to tag along like a puppy after his brothers. He was happy simply being "one of the triplets" (as everyone thought they were).
Now he's older. Complex. Negativity brewing. Nothing will ever be as simple as walks to the park and brothers playing together. There will be school struggles and girl crushes and self esteem issues and peer pressure and grown-up decisions thrust unfairly at adolescents possibly ill-equipped to handle them.
I've read several columns lately, new moms asking if they will survive this time with a newborn. It pains me to know what they have not yet discovered: that this is the easy part. The fatigue, the spit-up, the sore nipples, it will all wan and be a distant memory. What will remain are the cuddles, the smells, the coos, the tiny fingers wrapped around your hand, the fuzziness of baby hair, and the feel of a little head asleep on your shoulder.
Memories of watching Sesame Street together for the first time and being delighted when he claps in time with Elmo singing his theme song.
Remembering how you felt the first time you saw him dance to Thomas the Tank Engine's theme song or the first time he wrapped those tiny arms around you in a hug.
Remembering how you used to cuddle with him until you were both asleep pressed together in his tiny twin-sized bed, sweating from so much heat emanating from such a tiny little body.
Remembering how you laughed over his pride of "reading" for the first time, even though the word was totally wrong, but he was just so sure that's what it was.
I think that's why older parents always say to "enjoy it now because it goes by too fast." I think we always look back and remember a simpler time than the one we're in now. That's the beauty of parenting. It's the ability to have memories that sustain our todays. To know that however hard today is, there will be something about it that will make us smile someday, even if we can't quite see what it is today.
As I sat down to write this, I couldn't find the t.v. remote. Surely my fifth little toddler had hidden it under the couch. When I bent down to look, I found a stash of Knox's toys. After a brief initial annoyance, I smiled as I pulled one treasure after another from under the couch.
I remember that Joey used to do that, too. As I sifted through the pile, I smiled as I remembered the first time I pulled a stash like that from under the couch. It's always something.
It's always something that brings me back.
What are some of your favorite memories of raising your kids? Are there any you thought were hard at the time that have become fond memories?

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