This week our youngest child turned four and the last of the baby-gear items left our house. The item in question was our trusty Ergo baby carrier which we had kept in our minivan (aka the rolling jail), for just-in-case occasions. But this last week we also said goodbye to the a/c-less minivan (and hello to a blissfully cool SUV), and when cleaning out the minivan I realized it had been months since we’d used the carrier. It was time to bequeath it to a new family. In so many ways, it’s the end of an era.
We are officially a house where no bicycles have training wheels, no-one except Mommy needs to nap, all seat belts can be buckled by their occupants, and everyone can wipe their own butts. (<< note I said can, not does. There’s yet work to be done.) It’s been a long nearly-nine-years but we have made the transition from being the parents of babies and “little people” to being the parents of articulate, opinionated, growing-in-competence, medium-sized people.
There are some really beautiful things about this change. We all usually sleep through the night. They can tell me where it hurts, and they laugh at jokes. Sometimes, when the planets align and all my mommy-mojo is at work, they play nicely together and I can read a book while the children are awake and occupying themselves. I mean WHAT?! Really?!! There were a couple years there that I didn’t think that kind of daytime luxury would ever be mine again. For these changes in season, my primary emotion is one of gratitude.
There are also moments of unmitigated sentimentality. Like the day we dismantled our youngest’s crib and left it to rest in pieces, and there was something so sudden and unexpected about that change that I cried on and off for several days about it. Every now and then one of my kids will climb into my lap and ask me to read them a story, and I know that one day it will be the last time and the thought catches in my throat. But that time isn’t today, and so I read and try to keep the schmaltz at bay.
But between the gratitude and the sentiment, I just wanted to confess one more feeling: fear. For I know a handful of people who were just settling into this sweet post-toddler zone I’ve been describing, who had just given away the last of their baby gear, only to discover that—surprise! surprise!—they were pregnant again. And lest you think we only keep company with Natural Family Planners who rely on calendars to keep them child-free; let me say we’ve heard this story from people who’ve taken permanent steps to stop them
(Joke from my husband: What do you call people who practice the rhythm method? Answer: Parents. Crazy voice in my head taunting the “what if” scenarios: What do you call people who’ve had vasectomies? Answer: Very surprised parents??)
So this week, as my children buckled themselves into their seats and I drove across town to drop off that last baby item to a new foster family… I’ll confess I felt a little fear. Because what if this is our story, too? Just when we feel we survived the baby-years and are settling into the sweet season of the elementary years?
Well, I guess we’ll cross that bridge should we come to it. We had been hemming and hawing about if and when to have a third kid when God short-circuited our decision-making with a surprise pregnancy… and he was possibly the best surprise ever. We have laughed more and loved more every single day on account of that unexpected little boy. And I suppose that even if we were to have a (VERY!) surprise fourth, we would look back with gratitude and a “we couldn’t imagine life without them” testimony.
But for now, as I look at my baby-gear-free house, what I feel mostly is a quiet gratitude for the years past and the season we’re in. We have three kids and that seems a good number to us. The bakery is closed: no more buns will be baked in this oven… that we know of.
That’s our plan, but I know from experience that God pays little attention to my plans. So I’m giving away that baby gear, but—as with all things—leaving room in my soul for some divine mischief and mystery.