The following post is a chapter from my bestselling book, The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting.
Parenthood has many seasons. As is often our nature, we are regularly looking toward the next season rather than fully embracing and enjoying the one we’re in. It’s currently winter here – my least favorite season. I’m longing for the sunshine and warmth of spring. Of course, on those blistering hot summer days, I was longing for the chill of winter air. Winter always gives way to spring. Babyhood gives way to toddlerhood. Things are constantly changing, and one of the great keys to joy in life and in parenthood is learning to embrace the season that you’re currently in instead of looking to the one ahead.
I remember the exhausting days when I had a two year old and a newborn. My two year old still wasn’t sleeping through the night, and my newborn only slept for a couple of hours at a time. I had a toddler in my bed and a newborn in a bedside crib, and some nights I wasn’t sure if I had even found sleep. I found myself doing a lot of wishing….
I wish they’d sleep through the night. I wish they’d sleep in their own room. I wish I didn’t have to lie with them while they fall asleep. I wish I’d never started co-sleeping. I wish they were out of diapers. I wish I had some time for myself.
Now, my babies are big boys. They are out of my bed, out of my room, and long out of diapers. They almost never wake me at night. They sleep in their own room. They don’t need me to lie down with them anymore. I give them a kiss and walk out the door – and I have lots of time for me now.
Some nights, I walk out of their room, go curl up in my bed in front of the fire with a good book and think, “Ah. This is nice.”
But then there are the other nights when I lie there and listen to them talking with each other (their room is adjacent to mine). I listen as they tell funny stories and belly laugh at each other, and their laughter makes me smile through my tears. Silent tears are falling on my pillow as I stare at my ceiling, remembering the days when they used to need me. They need me less now. And as much I used to wish for “me time” back then is as much as I’m wishing now for “baby time.” Once more, I find myself doing a lot of wishing…I wish they still needed me to lie down with them. I wish I could hold them all night like I used to. I wish we were still co-sleeping. I wish they were back in diapers. I wish I could still rock them. I wish I could go back and do it all again, and savor every moment, committing it all to memory, rather than wishing it away.
Time teaches us many lessons. Another valuable lesson time has taught me is to not sweat the small things. Children are unique individuals, yet we try to put them all on the same time line. We expect them to be crawling, walking, talking, potty trained, and reading by a certain age, and we can get our stomach in knots worrying if and why they’re missing the mark.
My firstborn was potty trained by age two and a half. It took literally one day. He never looked back. He stayed dry through the night immediately. It was extremely easy. I thought I was a pro.
Son number two set me straight on the whole “pro” idea. He was well into age 4 before he decided to use the potty, and for many, many months after that, he had frequent accidents. I thought he’d go to college in diapers.
Then one day I realized I couldn’t remember the last time he had an accident in his undies. Just like that, it ended. I don’t know when it happened. All of that worrying was for nothing. That’s how these things often go – you think the stage or season will never end, and then suddenly you realize that it has. So, when I begin to worry that my son isn’t reading as well at this age as many of his peers, I stop my worrying thoughts and remind myself that he’ll get it in his own time.
Childhood is not a race. Neither is parenthood. Let’s stop rushing through, looking only for the next season to come, and take time to savor the one we are in. The sand is slipping through the hourglass, and there is no slowing it down. Just a blink, and suddenly there is a bit less in the top of the glass than there was before.
Time is slipping away.
Although time cannot be slowed, it can be embraced. There is delight to be found in our ordinary days. Lifelong relationships are being built in these ordinary days. Your legacy is forged in these ordinary days. While they may pass by seemingly uneventful and unimportant, there is no such thing as an unimportant day when you are shaping a child’s life. Something was written on their hearts today – something important. Be intentional about what it is you are writing.
Embrace the time you have. Enjoy the season you are in.
Each season is sweet in its own way, and each one will be missed when it is gone. Don’t miss the beauty of the bud while you’re waiting for the blossom. Each stage of a child’s life offers us a chance to know him a little better and to grow a little closer. Each stage also gives us a chance to grow into a better parent as we learn the lessons they teach us about loving unconditionally, living wholeheartedly, and giving and receiving grace.
Photo credit: Gentle Parenting Memes
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