Sunday, August 3, 2014

Don't Blink

A couple friends have just had babies, and now I know that I am truly an "older woman" as I find myself instinctively responding with unsolicited, unhelpful advice.

You know the kind.
Don't blink.  They grow up so fast.
Or, for those who have a couple toddlers or elementary kids in addition to that new baby, usually after those new parents complain about feeling stretched or exhausted:
Enjoy every minute.  You'll miss <fill in the blank>.  They grow up so fast.

So far, I think I've managed to catch myself and not actually say it.  But I definitely am thinking it.  So I'm writing this post.  Because I know these parents are hearing variations of that unhelpful advice and responding in the same knee-jerk way I once did.  And I know older parents are giving that kind of advice, and while I understood it somewhat a decade ago, I'm really grasping why that comes out of our mouths now.

Okay, about eight years ago, not quite a decade
First off, parenting -- good, involved parenting -- is hard at every stage (speaking only of the stages up through having near-adults here... my oldest is 17, so I'm not knowledgeable about parenting adults yet!) whether that involves sleepless nights with a colicky baby, the terrible twos, sibling rivalry, struggles with school, hormones (boys or girls), those late-night "meaning of life" conversations with teens, or a million other things that come along.

But parenting -- good, involved parenting -- can be pretty wonderful at every stage too.  First smiles, baby coos, watching them learn to crawl, snuggling a wee little one, big sloppy kisses, dandelion bouquets, little ones in your lap for a favorite read-aloud, watching them finally ride a bike, seeing them take off with some interest, hearing details about their favorite book, movie or minecraft world, them being big enough to take care of a younger sibling, them carrying out the groceries, or taking over dish washing duties, being tall enough to reach that top shelf item in the grocery store, those late-night "meaning of life" conversations with teens, or a million other things that come along.

This one IS a decade ago
The truth is, I love where I am right now.  My teens (13, 15, 17) have learned so much.  They are fun to talk to.  I value their opinions, which do differ from mine.  I miss them desperately when I go grocery shopping alone.  My younger two (8 and 10) are still so full of energy and wonder and excitement, and they are still just barely small enough to climb into my lap for a short time.

But when I see a family with a new baby, it is so easy to remember what I don't have anymore.  The stages we've passed, especially the good parts.  And I want to reach out to those younger parents and help them to notice the great parts, not just the dirty diapers and long nights walking the floor to keep that wee one content.

And that is when the "Don't blink" stuff tries to pop out.  That advice is true.  It does go so very fast.  And you are going to romanticize the good times as you get older and look back.  Those toddler temper tantrums seem fairly amusing from the distance of a decade, and those big, unconditional toddler hugs that (at least sometimes) I brushed off because there were meals to prepare, clothes to wash, and things to get done -- those seem so much more precious.

I know the pithy little "Enjoy every minute" statements don't help you though, so I try not to say them.

But really, don't blink.  And ignore the "have to's" sometimes and really live in those beautiful moments.  Because while you are not likely to look back on some of the rough stuff wistfully, you are going to look back and realize that you did miss out.

And in a decade, I'm going to look back at right now with those same thoughts too.  So I'm addressing this to myself as well.

Don't. Blink.

1 comment:

Lisa Rupertus said...

It goes by way too fast!