“When you want to run away because everything is so hard and so crazy and so much—lean in and savor the moment…the hardest part about being a parent is when they leave…”
This morning I made a new friend who is a few years down the parenting road and she offered me this reflection and advice. Her youngest is 18 and the older two have flown the coop. She says the quiet, cleanness of the mostly-empty house is far more difficult than the stresses of a busy, loud, full house with young children.
There’s a thing we used to hear a lot when people would meet our babies or toddlers: “Enjoy them! Enjoy these years!” I would smile, but inwardly thought: do you hear what you’re saying to this stressed-out sleep-deprived mama?! Joy is the most elusive thing you could tell me to reach for in this moment. Yes, motherhood brings great joy, generally speaking. But that comes mostly in the quieter moments, when everyone is asleep or in a rare episode of feeling fully rested. Enjoying my children was a difficult concept for me to understand, let alone live into.
A few years out of sleepless nights and diapers and nursing and potty training and all the accoutrement… I finally get it.
My oldest is 10 and my youngest is almost four. These 10+ years have lasted thirty years and thirty days and thirty minutes all at the same time. There’s a surrealness and a blurring and a timelessness around parenthood. Some moments feel as if they’ll last happily ever after and other exhausting seasons feel like they’ll never end.
But the truth is this: one day, they’ll leave. Even writing that sentence brings tears to my eyes. It’s a brutiful thing—watching your children grow. I blinked, and she turned double digits. One minute I was longing for her to be potty-trained, and the next moment she was begging to wear makeup. I was only gone a few minutes, but he was reading when I returned. My baby is almost four. ALMOST FOUR!
Dear time: I know I’ve said I wanted you to hurry up. There were moments and days and seasons I wanted to rush through. But I was wrong. Slow down. Please! For the love of all that is good in this world. Slow. DOWN! I have so little time with them.
One day, they’ll leave. So I’m enjoying the time I have with them now. I’m finding joy in the stage of life we’re in as a family and the stage each of them is in. I’m trying to say yes more, to accept the interruptions and be pulled by the hand to see their creations and listen to their stories however long and rambling they may be. I’m failing more often than not, but I’m trying to let go of my need to control everything. I’m putting away my phone (more often) when they’re around, because I want them to know they’re more important than whatever’s happening in my digital world.
Where are you in this journey? Are you struggling with how to enjoy your child(ren)? If you’re enjoying your child(ren), how do you do it? Share here for encouragement!