The days are long but the years are short. OR, what I really mean is...
Kids grow quickly, but when you’re in the middle of raising them, it may not feel like it.
The day is long when
- you have a child who’s sick
- or who was up 6 times in the middle of the night
- or who’s whiny
- or clingy
- or needs another diaper change or meal
- or when the weather is bad and you’re stuck in the house
- or when you’re sick and you just need a nap but can’t get one
- or you’re really emotional about something and can’t even get in a good cry alone
- or….the list goes on! I feel you!
Those days are physically demanding and emotionally draining. Sometimes, you’d kill for an hour of uninterrupted adult conversation instead of wiping up drool and smashed cheerios.
The days are long but I can assure you, they’ll pass.
Before you know it, the baby and toddler days are over. Suddenly, you have a little person with a mind of their own. Oh yes, they still rely on you 100%. You’re still the one who provides all the comfort and care, but they’ve started to realize they're a human being--not just part of you!
Now they want to dress themselves. They want to feed themselves and are so pleased with themselves for getting the mac ‘n cheese in the spoon. And then, on the floor. Still, it’s progress. They want to climb up in their carseat. It all takes sooooo long but you know it’s part of the process.
A little time passes and before you know it, they’re ready for preschool, then kindergarten. You make new mom friends. They make new kid friends. Sometimes they’re great at sharing and cooperating. Sometimes, you have to leave the playdate you were so looking forward to because they refuse to play nice.
The days are long, even then. There are still constant, physical demands on you 24/7.
But before you know it, they’re going to school. You get a bit of a reprieve. Honestly, sometimes you don’t know even what to do with yourself. There’s laundry. The house needs to be cleaned. There are errands and, hmmm, you’d love to get your nails done! You have a taste of freedom and so many things you want to do before they need to be picked up in the afternoon. Now you’re off, running them to music lessons or dance class or sports practice. Life is busy in a different way. There’s so much they’re capable of doing on their own now--well, as long as you’re there to support and supervise them.
You start to notice, as they grow up, they really DO have a mind of their own. They want to dress a certain way. They want to hang out with certain friends and not others. If they have a phone, they’re constantly on it. They want to do dance AND soccer or t-ball AND gymnastics. Or they don’t want to do anything at all (well, nothing that requires physical effort). More and more of their life is dependent on what their friends are doing….or what they’re wearing...or what apps they’re on.
One day, you realize that the physical demands, which were so exhausting, have changed. While it’s exciting, you also realize that there are new demands that come with having a school-aged child.
You no longer get to direct everything they do, what they wear, who they hang out with, what goes in their mouths, and how they spend their time.
You find you’re wondering about WHO they’re choosing as friends, what school snacks they’re trading, and who's influencing them more than you.
You realize that the physical demands of early childhood have been replaced by the emotional demands of raising a ‘tween’.
It’s not necessarily better or worse, it’s just different.
One day, when you’re raising a bonafide teenager, you’ll look back and long for those simpler times. You’ll forget how physically demanding it was and miss the simplicity of those days. You’ve traded being a full-time parent, with relatively complete control, for the life of a full-time parent whose influence is diminishing.
If you build a strong relationship while they’re young through being present, being reliable and consistent, you’ll be at a great advantage. Even though you’re no longer the most influential person in your child’s life (face it, you’ve been replaced by their peers), you’ll still be the one who they come to when their best friend betrays them or someone hurts their feelings. You’ll be the one they confide in when the world is unkind or even (God forbid) dangerous.
My best advice: invest in your child’s life now, while they’re young. Even if you’re tired and you’ve grown weary of all of the physical demands, keep going. It will be worth it. And, by the way, you’re doing an amazing job. The fact that you're reading this and looking for ways to be a great parent says a lot.
Parenting is exhausting--and it’s always changing. The things that are hard now will go away, and be replaced by something else that challenges you.
Remember, it’s a phase. If you like it, it will change. If you hate it, it will change.
The days are long but the years are short. Stay the course.
If you want to know about the 6 Things I Wish I'd Known, visit QuitProofKids.com and get the free download on the homepage.