Much has been said about the stages of childhood, the stages of parenthood, and the stages of life in general. The things that we have learned about these stages almost feels like a set up. It’s like our brains get tricked by a dangling carrot that tells us- if we can just get through THIS, we can get over THERE. But where is there? And when we get there will we miss this? I don’t know about you, but as much as I don’t want to miss this, I’m scared sometimes that I am.
Years ago, I bumped into a friend’s father in the grocery store. We were in the freezer aisle and I had both boys. Davis was in a car seat, enjoying a bottle that was strategically propped up with a box of Cheese Nips (you know you’ve done it), Hayes was hanging off the side of the shopping cart, pretending to be a fireman (it worked wonders for keeping him from running off), and this man stopped long enough to say hello and remarked casually as he walked off- “this is the best time of your life, but you might not know it right now.”
This is the best time of your life, but you might not know it right now.
These words fell straight onto my heart- my worn out, toddler toting, diaper changing, car seat lugging, young mama heart. These words made enough of an impression on me that here I am, ten years later, writing about them. These words taught me to look through the mess and grasp the moment. To look through the weariness and see the wonder of it all. To be in it and know it right now. So here’s an idea- what if we look at our stages in a new way that sets us free from thinking too much ahead?
These stages of parenthood can be hard. REAL hard. Sometimes it can get very difficult to navigate waters you’ve not been in before. Each and every stage that our children bring us to and through are awe inspiring and gut wrenching at the same time. When you are in the thick of it, it is difficult to actually love it, to embrace it.
But can we love the hard, can we appreciate the mud, can we grasp the beauty in the process no matter how difficult? Can we resign ourselves to love what is right in front of us and nothing more or nothing less? What if we look at the blessings in each stage and when the going gets tough- appreciate the teachable moments that transpire? I think it’s time- starting today, to love the stage we’re in. Lean in dear ones, because these stages, these phases, these are the moments that make up our one and only life.
I’ve come through a few stages as a mom, and there are more to come. But I wanted to highlight the hard and at the same time, the good of each stage I have experienced so far.
- Pregnancy/Baby: I lumped these two together because it seems that during these seasons, you have baby fog and this all runs together. It did for me, at least. I also pleasantly gained 70 lbs during my first pregnancy and delivered a 5 lb baby. I’ll wait while you do the math…. These years are tiring, no doubt. These years are all about keeping humans alive, complete dependency, bathing, feeding, dressing, and praying for sleep (for you and them). But here is what makes it SO good- you are the center of their world. Enjoy it now, you can sleep later. If you have children in this stage, go stare at them. Try to etch every detail into your memory.
- Toddler Years: Oh my, the toddler years. Mine did not really toddle, but instead went from crawling to full sprint. This is the season of the chase, of never sitting down nor holding any sort of conversation near a body of water, of watching and panicking at every turn. But here is what is so great about this stage- they are exploring and learning in order to become independent humans. Sure there are scrapes, bumps, and bruises- but these battle wounds are teaching them what hurts, what to avoid, and how to figure it all out. Again, go stare at them sister. Drink in all the details.
- Aliens in the Carpool: So they finally make it to a point where they can survive somewhat on their own, but they kind of turn into something not quite recognizable. Some will call this the tween stage- which is fitting because they have no idea if they are young or old- so they try to be a little bit of both. I call it the alien stage. This is also the exact moment that the aliens get busy. Very Busy. They want to sign up for each and every activity that comes home on a pamphlet or flier and I warn you- just say no to all but one, maybe two. While these cuties may be able to feed and bathe themselves (you are locked out of the bathroom at this point and find yourself talking through a bathroom door quite frequently) – they still cannot drive. This is the stage where you live in your car, ride around all afternoon, and hope that your random “pay it forward” acts in the Taco Bell drive-thru counts as community service. Surely. But oh the wonderful conversations that can be had in the car rides and drive-thru lines. Using every minute to suck up as much information as possible makes this time precious. They are buckled in, cannot go anywhere, and have to talk to you. It’s a win!
- Does He Know?: Something happens to us when our babies turn into teenagers- all of a sudden, at the ripe age of 13, it feels like the countdown is on! You have 5 years until you send them off to college (and they are supposed to resemble adult people). This realization can hit you like a ton of bricks. You will feel it your duty to impart as much valuable wisdom and ask as many questions as possible in these few short years- anything from hygiene to etiquette, armpit hair to girls. The wisdom canyon is broad here and most imparted wisdom and/or questions are followed by a stunned, deer-in-the-headlight look. It is actually my favorite look. The more random and embarrassing the better! So, I panicked momentarily when my oldest became a teenager. But now, I am learning to enjoy this time, through all the ups and downs and teachable moments. I am learning to turn the hard conversations, disappointments (there will be some), and mistakes (there will be lots) into life giving lessons.
So, let’s not see these stages as stepping stones to something better, easier, or as something we just have to get through. Instead, let’s view the stages as all equal on the actual stage of our lives, each having its own podium, that we walk up to, tilt the microphone down to our level, address it, talk to it, look at it, and say to it- I am here now for this very moment. And love it for all it is worth.
One of my favorite songs is “I Lived” by One Republic. Towards the end of the song, the lyrics say this: “I hope you spend your days, and they all add up.” Me too. That’s my hope. So go spend your days, go love the stage, and go stare at your children.
Let’s Be Brave,