Publisher’s view: The sweet stage of survival mode

Ashley Sexton Gordon

They will be gone soon. These children of mine. No, the photos don’t depict this. In the pictures, they are still young and growing and running and learning. They are still shorter than me, for the moment. But just give them a few months. They won’t be in my house much longer. Just 10 more years until my youngest graduates from high school. Just 10 more years until every last one of them is gone.

Ten years isn’t that long anymore, considering the length of a lifetime.

When I was in the diaper stage, I couldn’t project 10 months ahead much less 10 years. We were in survival mode. And with four children only five and a half years apart, the diaper stage lasted forever. The learning-to-swim stage was mixed in there, as was the car-seat stage, which is now, thank the good Lord, behind us. I can, once again, have guests in my vehicle without straining to unbuckle a 50-pound apparatus filled with Goldfish, pitching it to the back and trying to wipe the crumbs from the crease of the seat onto the floor with my bare hand. And pretending like that is OK.

One day I may even have a clean garage. That’s high hopes for sure—not a promise but just a projection. At the moment, I have about 27 bicycles of all shapes and sizes, some in working order and some that need their tires pumped, chains fixed and handlebars straightened. Some bikes are just extras, waiting on a friend or cousin in need. While other bikes, outgrown by an older sibling, are waiting on the younger to move up. Shelves stocking bulk items from Costco hold much-used and oversized items such as paper towels and toilet paper. The garden tools are propped lazily against the wall, and the ice chests are growing in ranks and perhaps plotting to take over. One day I may be able to drive my much-smaller vehicle easily in without the fear of running over a ball or a scooter. I might not be driving as much, later on.

It’s so hard to really see into the future, when the dailies demand so much attention. It’s difficult to plan and project into next year, when next week’s lesson plans and homemade projects—involving clay animals, and foam, and paint and an egg—are right around the corner. Next week’s meals need ingredients, and next week’s baseball and volleyball schedules need coordination and communication between spouses.

Clothes need to be folded, beds need to be made, teeth (must I really say this again?), teeth need to be brushed and shoes need to be picked up. The garbage needs to be taken out and the dog needs to be fed and the dishwasher needs to be unloaded and the counters need to be wiped.

Grades need to be good, and behavior needs to be excellent. And attitude is everything.  And wipe that smirk off your face, and close your mouth while you chew that’s disgusting, and don’t walk out of the room while I’m talking to you.

It can weigh you down, if you are knee-deep in the dailies.

But considering the length of a lifetime, the childhood years go by in a blink.

Ten more years, and they’re gone.

It’s the growing up and growing out stage. And it’s hard, but we will survive it. And—like those first few, no-sleep weeks with a newborn—we may not remember it all. But on the other end of this, we will have created a family worth every last cracker crumb.

Because the chaos only lasts for so long.

In the end, we might miss those floaties after all.