Most days I love being a parent.
I may not like the arguing, the whining, and the spilling of food and drink. But in general, it’s something I’m very grateful for.
However, when people tell me to appreciate my kids when they’re young, that someday they won’t want to be with me, that I will miss the cuddly days, I have to admit that I get a little annoyed.
Life is short. Young kids are cute. I get that.
But the people that tell me that are looking back at a distance. These people are trying to be helpful, I know. But they don’t remember what it felt like to be always needed—to have to wipe someone else’s butt, cut someone else’s fingernails, bathe someone else, dress them, and put their shoes on all the time. They’ve forgotten the hundreds of questions in a single hour, the asking over and over again for something that is “needed,” and the never-endingness of making sure that a little person is staying safe and growing.
You see, the problem with parenting is that you can only be in the season that you’re in.
In a perfect world, my kids would want to be with me one day and give me space the next. One moment they would be asking innocent questions in their adorable 2-year-old voices and the next, they would be able to have an in-depth adult conversation about life. I want a “both and” situation, and that’s just not possible. I can’t always enjoy the adorable, loving times and simultaneously skip the struggles that come with them not yet being able to take care of themselves.
The older I get, the more I see life as full of seasons.
It’s so easy for me to look ahead at the blurry, far off, golden future where my kids are independent, can take care of themselves, and can be left home alone, and wish for those days. I can’t see the teenage struggles from here, just as the mom of teenagers can’t see the draining hourly neediness of my little ones. Logically, I know this. But it’s so hard to remember on a day-to-day or even hour-by-hour basis. When you’re in the trenches, each battle is hard fought and seems to take forever.
Two steps forward, one step back.
I don’t have a solution to this problem of parenting. I guess I’m reminding myself—and maybe you need a reminder too—that this too shall pass. And we never know when we’re on the other side until we’re there.
So if you see me or another mom of littles at Target with our crazy hair arguing with our 2-year-old about touching everything in the store, please don’t tell us to enjoy every moment. Because right then, I would prefer to be by myself instead of wrangling a small tornado while buying my family detergent.
Instead, give me a sympathetic smile and say, “I’ve been there. You’re going to make it.”
Or if you’d prefer, just lie and tell me I look great, and that my child is the cutest thing ever.