I’ve had some days as a mom that were so intense that I’ve wondered– how am I going to survive some of these tough stages of childhood? It feels as though they will never end. Like last night when my baby screamed until 3 am and my two year old decided to wake up at 2 am for no particular reason, so once I got my baby to calm down, I had to go lie down with him until 4 to get him to go back to sleep. Which made me somehow sleep through my alarm, which made my older kids late for school, despite my bleary-eyed, scrambled efforts to get them out the door… and you get the idea. But, here is the perspective I try to keep that helps me on days like this.
For a year I faced the same battle: trying desperately to retrieve my six-year-old daughter from lala-land long enough to get her ready on time for school. I begged and pleaded. I reminded and nagged. I rose my voice to make sure she was really hearing me. I prodded and pushed and threatened until I was so frustrated I could scream. I tried letting her feel the natural consequece of being late. She didn’t seem to care. I tried taking away the right to play with friends after school if she was late. Nothing. I tried taking away her favorite toys. She got over it. And every morning it was like Groundhog’s Day- replaying the same scene over and over again. I felt like I would be stuck in this frustrating twilight zone FOREVER!
And then summer came and went. We started a new year of school. And then I realized one day- wait a minute! She is just getting ready for school every morning without a million reminders! When did this happen? People always say- “It’s just a stage,” and it sounds cliche but I have to add my voice and experience in agreement. For most of the frustrating experiences of parenthood, it really is just a stage. Your two-year-old son will not always be a disaster risk if the bathroom door is left open. Your daughter will not always wet the bed. Your colicky baby will not always have to be glued to your hip and still remain inconsolable. Your walls will not always be covered in marker. You will not always be changing diapers. Your kids will not forever be fighting over toys. You will not always have to listen to Elmo in the background of your life. You will not forever be cleaning up spills and changing your spit-up laden clothing 4 times a day. And you will not always be the only one in your house who appreciates how you use your sense of humor to get you through the rough moments of parenting. It is just a stage.
I try to repeat those words in my mind when I start to feel overwhelmed, or when I start to feel like I might just lose my sanity if my children whine one more time when I place a delicious plate of food in front of them that took my last ounce of energy to make. Then, I imagine them as teenagers… This scares the living daylights out of me and makes me grateful for the stage I’m in. Then I think about how quickly it seems I became an adult, and I imagine my children as adults. All grown up and living life on their own. And then suddenly I long for this stage to last a little longer, even with all the frustrations and struggles.
Because I will not always get to tuck them in at night and watch their faces light up as I read them stories. I will not be able to hold them in my arms and sing to them softly as I rock them to sleep forever. I will not always be the one they run to when they are hurt, and my kisses will not always have the power to heal their wounds. Their giggles will not forever fill my home with sunshine. Their artwork will not always be plastered all over my fridge. I will one day be replaced as the first person they run to when something exciting happens in their life. They will not always be small enough to snuggle on my lap and shower me with slobbery kisses. And they will too soon stop believing I am the fountain of all knowledge and wisdom. This too is just a stage.
So, I need to enjoy it. Relish it. Drink it in and not wish it away. Because life is full of fleeting stages that quickly dance through our lives. Too often I get caught up in the complicated steps and don’t step back and enjoy the full beauty of the performance. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go grab some popcorn and enjoy the show before the curtain closes and my little theater empties. And in the end, I hope I will have a heart full of happy memories of the many beautiful, though challenging, stages I was blessed to experience in this life.