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In parenting, 4 years is both a drop in the bucket and a lifetime

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“We’re bringing the soccer team snacks next Saturday,” my husband said casually.

It was a casual statement so his tone was appropriate, but for some reason it caught me off guard.

“Oh, okay. What do you think we should bring? Orange slices? Apples? Goldfish crackers? Juice boxes? Water? Homemade organic granola served in individually carved wooden boxes with each child’s name, soccer number, and zodiac sign?”

He thought apples sounded fine.

Soccer Snack Pressure

The anxiety around this soccer team snack decision had nothing to do with the snack really.

Well, maybe a little bit. I didn’t want to blow my first small town kid’s sports related assignment and be known as the soccer mom who brought “insert whatever would have been a disgraceful snack choice here.”

I mean was this soccer snack going to be fueling future World Cup Stars? Would the other moms and dads be documenting the soccer team snack in their highly organized child scrapbooks? What if I messed up and brought raisins and cheese sticks and everyone got gassy? I’m pretty sure there is a permanent parental record for that kind of stuff.

But really more of the anxiety came from the fact that my kids were growing up and so was I. Suddenly I was a soccer mom, and it seemed like it was all happening so fast.

Wait… I’m a Soccer Mom Already?

A soccer mom… how did that even happen?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that my son’s favorite activity was knocking over block towers? Now his knees were covered in dirt as he happily chased a ball around a field with seven other preschoolers. His interests have changed, and he’s growing up. Meanwhile I’m on the sidelines, growing up with him.

The Curious George sippy cup is still clear in my memory, but it has long been replaced by the water bottle he’s drinking out of now, the blue one with the lizard. He’s moved on from my lap and George and prefers to play with his friends, dig for worms, and learn about reptile life cycles. He’s growing into a curious independent kid, and I’m growing into a mom who needs to relearn about tadpoles.

When he fell down on the soccer field he didn’t cry for me, instead he jumped right back up and ran after the ball again. Did I teach him resilience in my all my grown up wisdom? Or is he figuring it out on his own? Were we growing up separately or together?

Didn’t this Game Just Start?

As my internal debate between apples and oranges continued and morphed into something that was neither about apples nor oranges, I started to think more about this growing up business. How could four years of parenting feel like both a drop in the bucket and a lifetime? I suppose because both are true. In the grand scheme of parenthood I have only just entered preschool myself. While I may feel like I have my Bachelor’s Degree in Toddler, there is so much more to learn at every age and stage. There’s so much I don’t know.

I don’t know when I’ll bring my kids to the playground and know they’ll be just fine if I read a book. I don’t know about report cards, or guitar lessons, or teenage outbursts. At least not from a parental perspective. I don’t know anything about trying to help my child fix a problem that can’t be fixed.

I don’t know a lot.

Amateur Soccer Mom, Pro Their Mom

At the same time even a mere four years feels like a lifetime because it is. It’s my son’s lifetime so far and I’ve seen it all.

I’ve been up nursing him at 2:00am, and then hooked myself up to the breast pump at 3:00am to keep up my supply. As I wandered sleeplessly through those nights, his baby monitor was close to my side so I could watch him breathe.

I’ve been to every well visit to see how much he has grown. And I’ve been to every sick visit to get eye drops, or antibiotics, or a gentle pat on the arm saying “it’s just a virus.” Then there was the time I spoon fed him water and slept on his floor for a week when he got a stomach bug that just wouldn’t quit.

In just four years there have been favorite stuffed animals, Hot Wheels cars, and puzzles. New teachers and new friends. Belly laughs and Band-Aids. Nightmares and big dreams.

I’ve read countless stories and watched the pages flip by in Little Blue Truck, Cat in the Hat, and Who Was Harry Houdini? After we’ve read those books, I’ve carried him to bed and tucked him in. I’ve been there nearly every night of his life. While he is still little enough to be carried to bed now, my back constantly reminds that those days are numbered.

It’s Like Apples and Oranges

I know it doesn’t matter if I bring apples or oranges as the soccer snack. Or if I bring fruit snacks, carrot sticks, veggie straws, or Fig Newtons. It’s an insignificant decision, one that he won’t remember in 3 weeks let alone 30 years.

But I’m glad that the apples and oranges gave me a pause. That they made me reflect on how quickly you can go from new mom to soccer mom to mother of the groom. The soccer snack made me remember it is so true that the years fly by, and that milestones are going to start coming in hot, for both me and my kids, whether I’m ready for them or not.

So maybe the apple or orange decision doesn’t matter, but it does matter that I hang onto the sweet moments I have, knowing they all go by so fast. And it matters that I give myself grace and perspective in the hard moments, knowing they all go by so fast too.

Through it all I’ll watch my kids grow over a lifetime, and I’ll know that I’m growing with them. Adding richness to my own lifetime by learning what truly matters and what doesn’t.

Oh and not that it really matters, but we brought apple slices to soccer. I’m officially a soccer mom, and it feels pretty good.

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