It’s so interesting being up here with my sisters. It’s made me really think about motherhood stages. Although all three of us are mothers, we are all in such different phases of motherhood. Their kids are all considerably younger than Max and Elle. And for some reason that brings me to this stark realization: I LOVE having “big” kids. What’s funny about it is that I never knew to really look forward to this phase. All my life I just dreamed babies. And from the time I held that first sweet newborn cuddled in a ball on my shoulder and listened to his sweet breathing in my ear, I knew this miraculous stage I’d been looking forward to my whole life would pass much more quickly than I was ok with.

I don’t know what made me so greedy for the baby stage, and also what made me so scared that it would pass too fast for me. Maybe it was all those years of watching my mom with her precious babies. I was second of nine, and born with an abnormally passionate love of newborns. I’d watch my mom with those babies, wishing with all my heart for the day I’d get one of my own. In the meantime I’d “hoard” my brother and sister babies. I’d sneak in and hold them any chance I got. I would watch them sleep. I’d sit for hours studying their tiny hands and feet. I’d watch my mom in amazement as she allowed me and others to hold those sweet bundles. I’d wonder to myself about when I finally got my own babies…I was sure there was no way I’d ever be able to let anyone else hold them. I’d be much too enamored with them to let anyone else have a turn.

Then suddenly those baby brothers and sisters were grown. My littlest baby sister was in school, and there were no more babies. And I knew that “baby” time just wasn’t long enough. I thought to myself about my poor mother. No more babies. Just these big kids. How could I not see how much fun she was having with the older forms of her babies? I guess I was too worried about the poor lady not having any more babies…what could possibly be better than that?

So suddenly here I am, the mother of five. Although they’ll always be my “babies” no matter how big they grow, I am in awe that the baby-ness in each of them has faded even more quickly than I had braced myself for. Each night as I check on them nestled in their beds (one of my favorite things to do, especially after a particularly crazy day), I sit and watch their peaceful breathing, and wonder how that snippet of baby time could have cheated me out so fast. Max sprawls his long arms and legs across his twin size bed, making it look like a bed made for a dwarf. He’s grown so tall. Although as his mother I’ll always look at his face and see his “baby-ness” in it, no one else could. I look at Lucy slumbering peacefully filling up her whole crib, her long eyelashes fluttering as they lay against her chubby cheeks. How did she grow from that tiny bundle who took up a tiny corner of the crib to this big girl?

I was prepared for this. I knew it would come. I had braced myself: babies grow up. What I didn’t know, though, is how fun the other stages would be. All I had dreamed about was baby, baby, baby. How did I not know to look forward longingly to the amazing talks you can have with older kids? How did I not know how invigorating explaining the world to an eight-year-old on my terms would make my heart jump like it does?

I love hearing the theories my kids come up with. Wondering at the discussions that are so invigorating because you really have to think with your heart. The tough as nails part of mothering shifts gradually from physical demands to more mental things. As kids grow it’s not only spreading yourself thin enough to give a million hugs and kisses, bandage up scraped knees, and teaching/pleading with your kids to please share, don’t bite, and to say “thank you.”

But wow, what a rush mothering is when you have to help kids make really important decisions. Help them find friends who are good influences, figure out how to do all that complicated math again when you help them with their homework. Ache with them when they’re feeling left out with others. Ache for them when they don’t even know to feel left out…they’re different and your heart aches because you don’t know how to change that. You see the struggles up ahead for your child and you have to let them face them, but you have to prepare them for those challenges.

There’s a mothering quote I love. It goes like this: “Having a child. It is to forever have your heart walk around outside of you.” I didn’t fully understand this ‘til my babies grew a little. They went to school. They were their own. They weren’t really “mine” any more…I couldn’t keep them forever right under my wing. I had to prepare “my” heart they were carrying around for the world.

I still have a lot to learn. Max is only eleven. I’m sure more experienced mothers look at me and think, “oh honey, you’ve got a steep learning curve ahead of you!” just as I look at new mothers with one or two toddlers in tow and think of all that lies ahead for them…what they’ll learn, what they’ll enjoy, what they’ll struggle with.

I know there are tough stages in store. There is heartbreak on the horizon when my kids have to make their own decisions that sometimes I may not be ok with. But they have to have that free-agency. That’s the guts of motherhood in my mind. Letting kids be who they are, and nurturing them the way they need to be nurtured, individually. I love these five people entrusted into my care with a love so fierce that I really think we can get through anything. And this is what makes motherhood so incredibly rewarding.

I guess in a garbled kind of way, what I’m trying to say is that big kids are fun. And I think, although it really surprises me, I’m gonna love each stage even more than the last. Because these kids are becoming “themselves”…people that I love to talk to and share things with. They’re becoming my “friends.” And I love that.

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  1. Shawni, you read my heart this morning.

    Here I am all jazzed up & excited about FINALLY having a girls' weekend sans kiddos….

    I looked forward to this oppportunity for months….especially when my angels weren't acting like angels…and I counted the days until my mini-kid-free-zone

    And now it is time to go to the airport and I am crying. My girls are sleeping in their beds and I will miss my Sofia and my Victoria. Heck, I miss them already.

    Motherhood has been the most powerful, humbling, rewarding experience in my 33 years.

    Thank you for always putting into words what so many of us mothers FEEL deep in our souls.

    Happy Weekend,

  2. I just love this post Shawni. You are a master of words, of expressing yourself! It’s fun to think of my longings and how they’ve always been for the “big kid” stage. Maybe it’s a life of teenagers for me?

  3. Shawni,
    I wanted to stop by and tell you thanks again for getting me connected with Dave’s cousin. I was able to meet with her in Utah and had a great time-her daughter Grace is adorable in the pictures I saw. I love your blog-sounds like you had as much fun in UT as we did. Next time you have a photography class-let me know-I would love to come.

  4. Shawni, You are so sweet. I love this post because I am also enjoying my kids at this stage. I love when they confide in me and talk to me like I’m a friend.
    I am looking forward to many more wonderful years with these girls and I hope it only gets better!
    Thanks for all of your sweet posts.

  5. I probably better comment on the mother as a terrific photographer. You have done such a wonderful job. Andrea told me that I just had to see what you have done photographically and I am glad that I did. You’ve got skills as they say. You may have inspired me to start shooting again, but not kids…other than my grandchildren I will leave that to you. So good to see your family including mom and dad….two of my favorites!!!

  6. I have been thinking a lot about this very topic as Bronson my baby is heading off to kindergarten. It is kind of a happy but sad thing for me. I love to watch them grow as individuals and build relationships with them but I get sad to see it happen to quickly and like my mom always says before you know it they will be out of the house. That freaks me out!

  7. Loved this post. Amen to the whole thing. I’m going through the same stages and it is truly neat to see these children getting older and enjoying them at a whole other level. Can’t read this in a book by Shawni someday 🙂

  8. Hello. I found your blog through D-Dawg’s blog today. And I was scrolling through your beautiful pictures and caught this post you did on motherhood. It pretty much sums up how I feel about this stage in parenting too! And, I thought I’d drop you a note and let you know I appreciated you sharing it! I have four kids too. My oldest is eleven. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this phase of mothering…the ups and downs. So, thanks for sharing your thoughts on it. And, I loved that quote you shared! Thanks ☺ Meg

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