1. How LITTLE my children actually need me.
When I was an elementary school teacher for 10 years, it was constantly drilled into the staff that we were 100% responsible (i.e. liable) for the students from the moment they arrived at school. We were strongly discouraged from ever leaving children alone in a classroom--even for a 2 minute trip to the bathroom--and supervision of hallways, entrances and even bathrooms was strictly observed.
I was still in this mindset when my first daughter, Anna, was born. Even when she was sound asleep in a safe place I was nervous to have a shower or go out to get the mail because I had this compelling RULE in my head that I had to be ON DUTY every minute. But by the time my second daughter Holly arrived 20 months later, I had discovered that a child can actually be unsupervised for a few minutes and most of the time nothing will happen.
Now that Holly and Anna are 5.5yrs and 7yrs, hours and hours can go by when I don't even see them. They get lost in their make-believe worlds of Barbies and My Little Ponies and Littlest Pet Shops. They draw and colour for up to 4 hours in one stretch. The get their own drinks and often their own snacks. They dress themselves and are independent in the bathroom. Now that it's summer, they go outdoors to the front or back yard without prerequisite 'permission'.
Some days I barely interact with them until they're ready for bed. I can read The Toronto Star from front to back. I can drink a whole cup of tea while it's still hot. I can talk on the phone without interruption. I can even send a few emails.
It's quite amazing how independent children can become in just a few short years. (And it's funny how mainstream parents would think that my children aren't independent because they don't go on playdates or sleep in their own rooms or--gasp!--go to school!)
Which brings me to the 2nd surprising aspect of being the mother of 4 young children...
2. How MUCH my children actually need me.
I mean, some days I hardly get a moment to breath, let alone put makeup on or brush my teeth! From the second we get out of bed, it's like this:
Mom! Get me some toast and soy milk. Mom! Get Jasmine out of my Pet Shops. Mom! Find my pink sandals. Mom! Julian is going to fall down the stairs. Mom! I want the rest of your cup of tea. Mom! Did you put my turquoise skirt in the laundry? Mom! Watch what I can do. Mom! Can you turn on the DVD player for us? Mom! Julian is eating magnets off the fridge. Mom! Read this book to me. Mom! Can you play with Jasmine? Mom! Holly took my seat. Mom! Julian has his hand in the toilet! Mom! I hate this shirt--stop putting it in my drawer. Mom! Can you put these pyjamas on my stuffed turtle? Mom! Will you braid my hair? Mom! Can we go to the playground today? Mom! I said I wanted toast and soy milk!!!
I mean REALLY!
If they weren't MY KIDS I'd lose my mind. Really. Or I'd send them all to daycare and get a job. Anything would be easier than 14 solid hours of meeting the incessant needs of these people! Like, digging ditches, attending births or fighting fires!
But, OH! The love that happens in the middle of the chaos. The days where every answer is YES. The spontaneous moments of Joy. The Freedom that surrounds us.
It's all glorious.