Monday, November 7, 2016

Transitioning through the Transitions of Parenting

"Enjoy these times…. they go so fast"

When the midst of battling a 3- year old who won't use the potty, a 2-year old who insists on standing in the grocery cart, a 16 month old who refuses to eat anything but applesauce, or getting up every 3 hours to nurse the baby, it can be hard to really appreciate 'these times', and they certainly don't seem to be going by fast

My father-in-law said something like that once and I responded by responded (with love and gentleness in my heart that I hope came out in my voice) "What was so great about when your kids were young? Do you even remember those times?" and he chuckled admitted that part of life was a blur. Much like the hours or days of a mother's labor, the early years of parenting thankfully are often a blur for parents and children alike.

Children don't actually have the capacity to remember the early years because their brains aren't developed (click here) in that area. And it is a good thing too. I think our children's rate of brain development is a gift from our Lord so that they can't hang those early parenting mishaps over our head "Mom, remember when you…"

Appreciating the early years of parenting can be a challenge because parenthood is just so exhausting. Once you have been through a challenge or milestone with one child, it does become easier to appreciate that challenge with subsequent children because you enter into the circumstance with both experience and perspective. As you encounter a tough stage you have the recognition that you WILL get through this. It was so helpful, when struggling with Gracie and the "blending" on her homework, for me to remember how much I struggled with JR.  He HATED reading aloud to me. He HATED sight words.  We made up a sight-words tickle time to get through it. So I took a deep breath with Gracie and reminded myself that in a few weeks or months this wouldn't be our daily battle. She has now joined her brothers in making me crazy if I call "lights out" because like me, they all obsess about books.

Just try to keep things in perspective. The things that are a struggle today won't necessarily be a struggle tomorrow. Most kids are potty trained before school starts. Your children will be too. If they don't like carrots, keep trying but also give them peas. They won't always need help packing their lunches for school.  They will learn to read, and write, and add and subtract.  And they will eventually sleep too.  Although walking them through many of these things will become less difficult for you.

Christy from Fountains of Home wrote about the difference in a parent's perspective on newborn sleep from the 1st baby and the 5th. She writes:

"I remember staying up at all hours, rocking, nursing, shushing her and completely believing this was how the rest of my life was going to play out. I would never sleep again. Ever. And I believed that with my whole being.

Because it was my first baby and I had no concept of a baby's insanely fast growth and the heightened speed of time once you have children, and thus could not fathom a time where my child could ever function, let alone sleep at all, without my constant attention. Sure, I was completely exhausted and irrational, but the thought of ever sleeping again seemed to be at similar odds as an alien landing on my lawn."

Christy speaks a truth that resonates with us all as we venture through a new tough season of parenting.  Maybe it is parenting a hormonal teen, or a sassy 6 year-old.  Some of the seasons end more quickly (due to our awesome parenting?), other seasons we just muddle through hoping it is just a stage and not the new normal.

For those who are stuck in a really tough time - a house fire, a divorce, grieving the loss of a loved one, job struggles, a really sick child or spouse, or other really hard times, your stages are different and I just can't speak to that. I can only pray that the larger the struggle and the longer the battle, the more grace God will poured over you. And at some point, God willing, you will have the ability to look back at the sleepless nights and gallons of tears shed, and you will be a beautiful example to others. You will have survived that nasty season of life.

In 20 years, we may look back at our earlier years of parenting with some nostalgia, but for now as I look at my friends with littler ones I can smile and think "I am so glad we are past that stage".  And when I am in some tough stage itself, I am trying (with God's abundant Grace) to appreciate the struggle for what it is, and how it is shaping me, knowing it won't last forever.

Thanks for stopping by and hang in there!

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