This morning, as I dressed my Pearl, the tunic became stuck on her face for a split second before pulling gently over her sweet nose and into its proper spot on her shoulders. Her face let me know what she thought of that split second. That was SCARY, Mom! Where did you go? What was smothering me? Why was it so DARK?!

A second later, she was all smiles. Mommy was with her. She was cozy and warm, and all was right with the world.

Which is why I want to write this before I forget. We’re 7 years into our marriage, and 7 years into family life. [Because when a man and a woman love each other sooo much, sometimes that love overflows into a baby within just a few days after a white dress and rings …] Often, I’m like my little Pearl. During a moment of uncertainty and darkness, I panic and think it will ALWAYS BE THIS WAY FOREVER AND EVER AMEN! I cry out to my Mom, my Heavenly Father, and my husband, and even when I hear their comforting voices, I can still feel smothered, afraid, and desperate for a change. A second after it ends, I’m back to my cheery self. I toss out a few thank yous to the people who helped, and my memory gets to work softening the memory of what happened.

Four kids right in a row (every other year or so) was challenging.Working while learning to be a mom was even more challenging. I think it slowed the learning curve somewhat, so it took longer for me to develop homemaking skills and parenting skills than I may have been able to cultivate if I was less divided, less distracted, and less worried that I was messing the whole thing up all the time. And I was doing it all with super supportive family and friends and two jobs I loved that helped me grow in other ways. Single moms and military moms and moms far far from family–my hat is off to you.

When I had two kids under 3 and was approximating the sleep patterns of a giraffe, I propped my eyes open with mascara and attended a play date with some “veteran” moms. One was talking about how she slept in until 9am that morning before her kids woke her up. I was astounded. Is that even possible? She assured me that life was totally different once your oldest was about 7 years old as long as you’ve trained that child to be independent and resourceful. The other moms nodded in agreement. I grabbed that sparkling gem of hope and placed it reverently on a pedestal in the recesses of my mind.

Well, I want to tell you that it’s true. At least, it was for me. And I was willing to bet it wasn’t going to happen until later, since my oldest is a boy who is more of the creative meets soldier bent than the domestic bent.

A couple weeks ago, he got on a chef kick and set the table and made all the kids and I scrambled eggs for breakfast every day before I was downstairs with the nursed and changed baby! Today, after a week of sickness in the house, he saw I was getting into cleaning mode and offered to help. He wiped down the table, counters, and stove top. He swept the floor. He cleaned clutter. He put away laundry (with all 5+ trips up and down the stairs). And he offered to put together snacks for his siblings. This, my friends, is a new world. I have HELP. And he was so positive about his jobs that his two sisters grabbed spray bottles and went to town on the windows for a bit.

He is not all the way grown up, by any means. He still cries about school work he doesn’t feel like doing. And his active imagination often overflows into creations covering half a room (apple doesn’t fall far, I’ll admit.) But he is becoming. Helpful, magnanimous, generous, insightful, responsible, polite, kind–he is becoming a young man. And I’m so proud of him. After all, aren’t we all still becoming too?

Toddlerhood remains a tricky, sticky stage for me. It takes more patience for me to watch a two year old imperfectly use a hand broom to clean glitter than it does for me to type a 2,000 word essay. But it helps immensely to know that some day that little grin of accomplishment may shine at the end of a job well done without being begged, bribed, and threatened. Someday that little person struggling to wash her hands properly will be a young woman with good hygiene, a beautiful aspect, and the ability to care for others patiently. Someday they will be asked to function responsibly, to serve, and to love as adults and they will know how. I only pray that I may show them that this is a labor of creative love and a pursuit of happiness in beauty and relationship, not just a method of survival or efficiency.

And for you moms still feeling like you’re blindly fighting your way forward and trying ot get a breath through those first few years, have courage. Each second you pour into scrubbing grubby feet and each moment you find to rejuvenate yourself, your marriage, and your reliance on God are threads in a beautiful tapestry that is coming together. Masterpieces have both bright points and bits of shadow. This may be your shadow, but it too will end, and you may find on the other side that it had many colorful variations in it to relish as well. Even if your life is painted in dark chiaroscuro, there will be light and great beauty if you look for it. And in my experience, the people who can paint the shadows well, can paint the featured image with brilliance.

Image source: Photo credit – thejbird on flickr