This Too Shall Pass … Is a Damn Lie
When I was a new parent, I'm not sure if anything annoyed me more than “helpful” people who would remind me that no matter what difficult season or stage I was going through, that there was one thing I should remember:
That this too shall pass.
Tell me you've heard that sentiment from other people, too? Baby not sleeping at night longer than 20 minutes at a time? Oh, this too shall pass. Toddler going through a toilet-exploration phase? Oh, this too shall pass. Walking past your partner like two ships in the night and literally never spending any time alone together? Oh, this too shall pass.
And while that's all well and good for the people who have already passed those stages to look back nostalgically and reminisce over what a hard time it was way back when, the honest truth is, saying “this too shall pass” is not at all helpful to the person actually living through the hard thing. Sure, everything passes in time because well, that's the nature of time passing, but it's not remotely helpful while going through it to hear those words.
Even more frustrating? The fact that a lot of those things that you are told will pass don't actually pass. They are, I'm sorry to have to tell you, total lies. Let's break down all of the lies that other people will try to tell you about parenting.
#1: Separation Anxiety
OK, so maybe your kid won't be in your bed or refusing to leave your side by college but there isn't a magical age where separation anxiety just suddenly disappears overnight. The real truth is, some kids are just more clingy than others and some are just more independent. Telling parents that separation anxiety is “just a phase” can do a disservice because it ignores the real truth that some kids need more from their caregivers in terms of time and physical presence.
I had babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and even school-aged kids that needed me more at certain times and that's not a “phase”; that's parenting. Different kids will need to feel close to you in different ways and that's normal and natural and dare I say, healthy. Don't feel pressured or rushed to get through the “stage” of separation anxiety, but instead, realize it's part of parenting and encourage ways you can give your kid what he or she needs while also honoring your own need for space. (Boy, do I need space sometimes!)
#2: Sleep Regression
Boy, do I feel like a jerk saying this, but I'm just going to anyways. Sleep regression doesn't always go away. Take my youngest daughter, for example. A wonderful sleeper initially, she hit a sleep “regression” at 4 months old — and essentially was the world's worst sleeper after that. And guess what? She's still not a great sleeper. She doesn't like to go down to sleep, I find her wandering the house at night, she pops up bright and early, ready to go, and she hasn't napped since she was two.
My point is not to depress you or cause you to lose all hope. But again, to see that while sleep regression might bring some temporary challenges, it could also be a sign of your child's own sleep patterns and habits that need addressing for the long-term. If you see it as a phase that will go away on its own, it might mean you miss an opportunity to instill positive sleep habits early on or even get professional help if needed.
#3: Feeding Challenges
Ain't no challenge like meal time around my house and if you're a mom of a picky eater, you feel me. When I've tried addressing my children's picky eating problems, I get two responses from both friends, family, strangers and even our doctor: 1) They'll eat if they're hungry enough! and 2) It's just a phase.
And guess what? Neither of those is helpful. I'm not keen on letting my children starve. And now that my oldest is 10, I'm starting to think it's not “just” a phase. Picky eating is hard to deal with as a parent and I feel like saying, “oh, it's just a phase that will pass” really downplays how difficult it can be as a parent when you're facing feeding a kid who hates all food 3-5 times a day.
#4: The Toddler Years
Yes, the toddler years pass. But then what happens? The preschool years. And then what? The school-age years. And then what? The preteen, what-the-heck-is-happening-to-my-child years. And so on and so forth, I'm sure you get the picture.
The point is, while we can rationally say that these years shall pass (because they will) I'm just not sure that is 1) helping anyone and 2)actually that accurate. Because while the time might pass, the specific issue or challenge will more than likely still be there, just bigger or changed slightly so it looks a little different. (A toddler playing in the toilet, for instance, suddenly becomes a 10-year-old begging you for electronics and both are kind of disturbing, tbh.)
So, yes, this too shall pass. But as for what comes next? I can't promise it's getting any easier, so maybe we should rethink the message we are giving to parents to encourage them.