Friday, June 09, 2006

Where do I fit in?

I stopped by the kiddie pool when I dropped my 12-year-old daughter off at her volleyball practice this morning. In between watching volleyball, I watched all the mothers, some holding infants, playing with and following their preschoolers around the pool.

It struck me how very much in the middle I am right now.

Yes, I am a mother of preschoolers. I’m sure I love my little ones as much as all those other ladies do. I have the same responsibilities as they do, to feed, care for and train my small kids. When I go to the pool, I am right there in the water making sure no one drowns, just as these mothers are.

But preschoolers are not the center of the family schedule anymore. Their needs do not drive all the activities of the family (exception: potty training time!). In fact, many of their needs (say, naps, for example) have to be carefully balanced with the activities of the older kids.

Does this make them any less important? Of course not. They add a dimension of joy and exuberance (and chaos!) to virtually every interaction in this family.

But their preschool years are a far cry from the calm, structured existence our first two children experienced. They go with the flow because they have to.

Some of the mothers of my preschoolers’ friends just don’t understand how I could let my preschoolers stay up so late or (gasp!) have less-than-perfect nutrition, to name but two of my parenting weaknesses.

And yes, I have older children. But let me tell you, there are precious few of my middle schoolers’ friends that have siblings in diapers. Very few of my eight-year-old’s friends even have younger brothers or sisters.

When I go to the pool, the mothers of my older kids’ friends are usually not even there. They have dropped their kids off in favor of running errands. If they are there, they have brought a two-inch thick, spellbinding fiction novel to keep them from falling asleep in the sun (don’t even ask me the last time I read fiction!). Either that, or they want to have a long, detailed conversation with me, while I am frantically trying to look past them, ever ready to yank my gasping two-year-old out of the water by the hair, if I have to.

So where do I fit in? Preschool mom? Middle-years mom? Tween (soon to be teen) Mom?

(Shhhh. I know what you're thinking: CRAZY mom!).

We don't think a thing of it at home, but I’ve been told that we could have “planned” a little better and had our kids closer together (oh, the things that people think are their business!).

That might have made it easier. Easier to lump my children into a nice neat group that would make my social life so much more convenient.

I was always one of those group-floaters as a teenager. Never really part of the "in" crowd but never part of the "out" crowd, either (or so was my adolescence-tinged perception). I figured that was part of growing up.

But maybe this is my lot in life: this messiness, this social in-between-ness. I'm learning to be okay with it.

Maybe I'm growing up, too.

Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people...

I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.

I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (
The Message)


Jennifer said...

I was at the community pool the other day and I couldn't get over the different mother "cliques". Some with trendy swimsuits and sunglasses; some with granola-type snacks and a laid-back style; some actively playing with toddlers. It was amazing and eye-opening to me that I've stepped into a whole new realm of "where do I fit in"? But, I later decided that I was there to be with my daughter and I shouldn't give a hoot what anyone else thought of me or my child. We had a wonderful time!

Millie said...

Katherine, how eloquently you have described this situation... I've had the same feelings. I visit my 13 year old son's middle school, with my almost-2 in a stroller and my 4 year old beside me, and I'm sure the kids and staff think, "Wow, what a huge gap between kids!" Little do they know I have 2 more at elementary school. :) I'm always conscious of it.

The great thing about the large spread-out family is everyone gets to experience so many more family dynamics than they would have if we'd limited our children to 2 or 3. My older children will have a better idea of what to expect from their own babies and toddlers. The younger ones enjoy the care-taking of the older ones (when it happens). It's all good stuff.

As for me, I find it kind of funny to fit into both groups - particularly the young 20-something moms - but I think "momming" is ageless.

Susanne said...

I love your picture of the "balancing act". I think you're in a special place where God can really use you. You have an "in" with the younger moms 'cause you have younger ones yourself and they can see you have older ones so you are a fountain of wisdom & grace for thier questions and sometimes insecurities. Just like where the apostle Paul said for the older women to teach the younger. No I'm not saying you're old but that you have been thru some things when your olders were younger and can now let God use you to help them. OK I'm signing off now before I dig a really big hole. :D

Joy @ SAH Missionary said...

Who knew we'd still be having these troubles in our momhood? I thought it would end when we left High School!! Although I'm not at the same stage of life as you now (mine are all still preschool) I can certainly relate to what you are saying about growing up. I just didn't think it would take this long!!!
Have a great weekend!

Michelle- This One's for the Girls said...

As a "fellow mom-in-the-middle," I really appreciated this post. Thanks. :)

Karla said...

Great post. I wonder the same thing sometimes. I don't have any friends in my age group that have as many kids as I do(six), and I sometimes wonder what they think of my parenting techniques.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this post! For one, a lot of people do not plan their children, I so want more but right now that is not happening (I am so trying to believe their is a plan and HE knows what he is doing!!)

I really try to do my best not to judge other parents and empathize where there are right now. You blow my mind that you manage 5 beautiful, well-round kids!! You rock, no matter what group you are in or out!

Anonymous said...

You are always more than welcome to bring your brood to my house! I have always been amazing at your capacity to have such control. To read that you feel the "in-between-ness" and not a part of the "in-crowd"--that I completely understand by the way-- just helped me to realize how many of us are in that boat together without looking around to see who else is in there with us.

Unknown said...

What a well-written, honest and insightful post! I don't think that there is a "normal" mom. At 35, with a 7 yo and a 2yo, I am older than many moms I know with kids of the same age, but I also know people my age who are just starting out. Then, like you said, there are some with older kids, some younger, and some, like yours, who span all the ages. Honestly, I love forming friendships with moms with kids older than mine. They are gold mines! And if they happen to have a little playmate my toddler's age, all the better.

Shawna said...

This made me feel better about myself, as it seems I am always somewhere in between. You have got to look like a pro to all of the age groups, judging from your site, very impressive! I especially appreciate the part about others try to talk to you, while you are diligently keeping an eye on your preschooler. Oh, yes. I am so not getting to have conversations with adults for the time being! I wouldn't have it any other way...

Gina Conroy said...

I can so relate.

My preschooler often tags along with the crowd, and I have to make an effort to do things just for her. Her preschool friends all seem to be first born and it's hard for me to relate to the new mom in them. I don't really fit in with the crowd and while they play after school at the playground, I'm often running to pick up another kid from somewhere!

But one day soon we will get to the point when we can read at the pool!