A few weeks ago, I stopped by the park with my 3-year-old (aka my fourth child). He insisted on wearing his Batman rain boots that morning and I guess he knew something I didn’t because we ended up at a park, an incredibly wet park. Water was still resting on almost every inch of the slides, tunnels and ladders. Mud puddles had formed in the grass all along the edge of the play area. We decided to stay and play anyway. He started off playing on the playground equipment. It didn’t last long, though, because he spotted the perfect puddle.
He walked towards it and jumped in. Much to my surprise, I didn’t stop him. He splashed just once and walked on. He eyed it again before looking up at me, wanting my approval for what he was doing. He was asking to be a 3-year-old. I didn’t stop him. He ran and he jumped into the puddle. He splashed until I could hear the water inside his boots. Mud speckled his face and attempted to blend in with his freckles.
The happiness he exuded in those 10 minutes will be a permanent memory kept secure in my heart forever.
It wasn’t so long ago that his older brothers desired jumping mud puddles, but I always redirected them. In the three years since our fourth child was born, I have experienced a great deal of guilt because I believe my older children were denied a lot of childhood because of the mother I was trying to be.
Asher, my youngest, came along when I was 28. My oldest was 10 and my middle two were 6. Toddlers and preschoolers were a thing of the past, but we prayed and hoped to be blessed one last time and we were. I am so grateful that he came along. I firmly believe I am a better mother because of my fourth child.
Here are the reasons why:
- I don’t care what people think anymore. Walking around at 19 with a 1-year-old, you catch your fair share of judgmental glances. When I was 23, I had a 3-year-old, two infants and a minivan. In my early years of motherhood, I cared entirely too much about what people thought. The older boys never got to splash in a mud puddle, unless it was a planned event. Who plans to splash in mud puddles? That doesn’t happen.
- I enjoy my kids more. I am more active with them now than I ever was before. Partly because I now have a little more help with all the work at home. Yeah, my kids have chores! Last week on another day filled with rain, the boys and I ran out to spend gift cards. I let the fourth child walk around the stores. No stroller, no leash, no shock collar (kidding!). We enjoyed our day and I didn’t care that the older boys spent some of their gift cards on frozen mocha cocoa smores something or another from the Starbucks inside the bookstore. They even shared with their youngest brother. Yeah, I let my 3-year-old drink Starbucks and I think I’m a better mom because of it.
- We have more money now. We struggled a lot in the early years. We are in no way living in the lap of luxury now, but our water or electricity isn’t getting turned off every other month. My husband’s job has given our family a sense of stability we didn’t have in my early years of motherhood and I am so grateful for that. We stay pretty busy utilizing the passes we have all kinds of places. It makes what used to be really long and draining days not so bad. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but security in finances brings peace. I have more peace than I did 10 years ago.
- I have a deep understanding of God and his love for me. My children are his. They are temporary placements on the Earth and are my responsibility. He chose me for these children and my number one goal needs to be for them to find their way back to him. I’m a better mom because of God, but I’m not sure I could have ever figured that out without my fourth baby.
- I savor motherhood now and I savor my children. I savored my last baby’s newborn stage. Of course, I miss it, but I don’t long for it because I know that I soaked up every ounce of it. He was mine and I was his and while he may have been my fourth, I was too busy just trying to make it to tomorrow to realize it with my first three. The guilt I feel almost daily for the early years is tough, but I firmly believe I’m making up for lost time. I’m making sure that all my boys know my purpose is to be their mother. I savor who they are right now, in this moment. The good thing about those early years is that they won’t remember my worst days and my best days, they will! My fourth child helped me see the mother I was and become the mother I am.
I will enjoy the little bit of childhood they each have left with an attitude of praise and spirit of joy. I won’t focus on what I didn’t achieve in the earliest years of motherhood and instead choose to embrace the years. This fourth child made us as a family of six and was the perfect addition. He made me a better mom, and he and his brothers will forever experience the spoils of me admitting my faults and realizing the kind of mom I want and need to be.
Now, I think I should go find a mud puddle big enough for all of my boys to jump in.