Molting? Yes, molting. Stick with me.

My five year old and I were strolling the neighborhood this week when she came across a cicada shell, precariously hanging from the tip of a long piece of grass.

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Oklahoma, we have cicada shells (and cicada songs) a’plenty all summer long, and so I was surprised she even took notice as they have almost lost their mystery for her.

But she did notice and she asked me, “How do cicadas get out of their shells?” Back at home, a few quick keystrokes and we were watching videos of cicadas climbing out of their outgrown skin, a truly fascinating process to behold even for the most insect-averse.

Molting is such an incredible part of nature, isn’t it? For creatures who molt, it’s essential to survival that they be able to rid the skin they’ve outgrown. I have to think that those last few days before their old skin is finally shed must be almost unbearably uncomfortable.

cicada shell
Photo by City of Albuquerque

I can relate to that.

Six months ago this week, we added babies three and four to our family – twin boys who have charmed the socks off of us even as they have turned our life upside down. And the process of learning to mother them in addition to my two older girls has felt all the world like, well, like molting.

Within the first year of my oldest daughter’s life, I discovered the parenting paradigm that included attachment parenting and natural family living. I dove in and never looked back; the philosophies and practices perfectly complemented the things I believed in the most strongly in life.

We hadn’t even left the hospital with our twins when I realized that my old mama skin, the one I had felt so comfortable in for so long, was being stretched to the point of pain. I knew already that my old ways might not be the best ways.

And so here we are, six months in, and because it was essential to my survival, I’ve had to allow a molting of sorts.

Our babies are in the stroller far more than they are in a sling. My older girls refused to take bottles while my twins gulp down ounce after ounce of pumped breastmilk and formula with glee. The rocking chairs are collecting dust as I learned early on that mastering the “lay them down while they are drowsy” trick would be necessary for my sanity.

As silly as it sounds, I find myself looking to the cicada for inspiration. She doesn’t fight the process, nor does she bemoan the change. On the contrary, I imagine it is with great relief that she bursts out of that too old, too tight skin, happy to leave behind the delicate remains that barely resemble the insect she is now.

So often when we talk about change within mothering, we speak about the changes our children go through and how we can best meet their needs as they grow. Far more subtle and less discussed are the changes that we as mothers must make – for our sanity and our survival.

And so though it’s not as poetic as the blooming of a flower bud or as ethereal as a sunset, I’m still going to embrace the idea that molting – yes, molting – is the season I’m in. And I’m thankful for it, for now I can stretch my wings and fly.

When have you experienced a change so dramatic – in parenting or otherwise – that it caused you to outgrow the skin you were once comfortable in?