The Phases of Parenting
Last week the end of this school year meant the end of preschool for our family. It was a time that lasted five full years, from the first day my oldest attended – her siblings still babies in strollers – to the graduation of those same babies from their VPK program. My children are (mostly) thrilled to welcome summer vacation and kindergarten. Their mother, on the other hand, is struggling.
And so it goes. This is the way of parenting. Almost every parenting challenge I’ve faced is done so while reminding myself to just make it through – it’s just a phase. And almost every wonderful joy is also fleeting, from the sweet smell and grasping fingers of my newborns to the mispronunciations and stumbling walk of my toddlers and beyond.
Most days, I find myself stumbling along, desperately trying to keep up. Trying to meet the challenges feeling prepared, but constantly surprised by what I’m dealing with. Just when I think I’ve mastered something, it seems everything changes and I’m one step behind once again.
Like everything else, there are spectacular days and there are barely-getting-by days. Both of them only last 24 hours and then they’re gone. So allow yourself and your children to be who you are today.
First it was those milestones of babyhood. Strangers asking if my child was sleeping through the night, seemingly oblivious to the bags under my eyes and the wrinkles in my t-shirt that would suggest that no, that was definitely not happening. Part of me spent every evening desperately wishing that just-this-once I’d get five hours, in a row.
And then one night it happened.
And after the brief moment of celebration, it was on to the next thing. Was she eating enough? Was he always going to be this fussy? It’s so easy to get caught up in the rush of “fixing” things that you forget that maybe there isn’t anything to fix.
Babies don’t always sleep through the night. Some of them cry a lot, some hardly at all. Some two year olds throw epic tantrums. Some kids don’t hit that tantrum phase until they’re five. (I happen to have one of those). There are always going to be challenges and joys, and wishing away one means that you have less time to spend enjoying the other. This doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to dread yet another sleepless night or epic tantrum in the middle of the grocery store. But it does mean that it is alright to cut yourself and your child a break.
In the phases of parenthood sometimes we have to remember that we shouldn’t expect perfection from our children – and we shouldn’t expect it from ourselves. Some days all you can manage is putting on a movie and feeding the kids dry cereal for snack, and some days you head off on grand adventures with a fully balanced, healthy meal. Some days all your children can manage is crying and tantruming and feeling frustrated, and some days they are so adorable and polite and amazing that strangers compliment them while you’re out. And you know what? That’s alright.
Like everything else, there are spectacular days and there are barely-getting-by days. Both of them only last 24 hours and then they’re gone. So allow yourself and your children to be who you are today. Make your way the best you can. And love one another, no matter what. At the end of the day, that’s the only thing that lasts.