Friday, March 20, 2015

It's only a phase

As my kids' birthdays approach, I've been thinking about the phases that are behind us.  It was a bittersweet moment when we got rid of the wooden trains and tracks that had been the focus of playtime for years.  Now we are deep into the worlds of Minecraft, Lego, and American Girl.

As a friend prepares for the upcoming birth of his baby and shared a lullaby playlist that he created, I remembered the songs that were the soundtrack of our lives for the years they fought sleep.  I can picture Maryn toddling around in footie pajamas and miss when she could so easily be scooped up in our arms.  She used to dive from our arms into her crib, and for a little while enjoyed sleeping as she had the comfort of her pacifier.

Brady called his multiple pacis his "eyes" as he had to have one in his mouth and one in each hand that he would click together and stick in his real eyes until sleep overtook him.  Once we made our toddlers surrender their beloved pacis and "eyes", sleep was not as enticing to them.  We still catch Brady making sucking sounds with his mouth in his sleep, as if he has found his beloved "eyes" again.

At my grandmother's house this weekend, I came across a series of photos of Brady as a baby that I had forgotten.  He was all smiles and chubby cheeks which was jarring to me as I remember him as being silent and serious, and getting him to put on weight seemed to be our biggest battle.

I have stopped writing down the milestones as we have passed what seem to be the big ones--first steps and first words.  But I'm wondering what I may be missing.  I only notice in hindsight the little changes that occur and I'm melancholy that I didn't realize when the transition took place.  Will I be paying attention when she no longer calls the morning meal "breathfast" or when baby wipes stop being "wep wipes"?  How much longer will she need us to cuddle with her at bedtime?

He is solid instead of skinny, and I can't lift him anymore.  On the rare occasions he climbs into my lap, I can't see over his head.  I remember resting my head on his, when he could be comforted by the sound of my heartbeat.  How much longer do we have of him wanting us to eat lunch with him at school?  He already thinks kisses are yucky, but still allows us to hug him, thank goodness, and isn't yet embarrassed to be seen with us.  I know the days are numbered.

The kiss part of this promise has already expired.
Maryn is reading chapter books now, and I think back to when she didn't like books.  I would try to read with her in our my lap, and she would close the books saying, "The end!  The end!"  It baffled me as books are so central in my life, and Brady taught himself to read when he was only three.  She grew to love cuddling with us on the bed with a stack of books, and was reluctant to read on her own.  But now that she has gained confidence, she is unstoppable, and received a star reader award from her teacher last week.  Sometimes she even asks if we would like her to read to us.

So much of parenthood has been tougher than I imagined as it is an ongoing surrendering of self.  It is the letting go of the idea that we are in control and that it is all about us.  It is being open to transition and growth, both in ourselves and the little beings we have helped to create.  When things go wrong, people are quick to assure, "It's only a phase; it will pass."  Now, when things are going unexpectedly well, my husband jokes, "It's only a phase; it will pass."

But isn't that the essential truth?  It is all a passing phase whether we are mindful of it or not.  We have a limited time to share what we want to impart, knowing that we don't know what will stick.  It's easy to get caught up in the nostalgia or the fear of how fast the time passes (when it's not passing by so s-l-o-w-l-y), although another surprise of parenthood has been recognizing the gift of each new phase.  I can sigh over the sweetness of the tiny baby clothes and the cute pictures of first smiles, but I also have the memory of how exhausting that time period was.  The toddler years were a blur of activity and finding our rhythm in a house of two kids spaced two years apart and juggling two full-time jobs plus family between us.

Now we worry about behavioral issues and whether they are learning the values we are trying to model, but they are gaining independence.  There is so much more to enjoy now as they are able to share their thoughts and experiences with us, and so much more to look forward to as they hopefully learn how to regulate their very strong feelings and wills.

In the same way, I think of the phases of parenthood.  I hope that I'm gaining my stride now and that my kids can see that I'm growing alongside them.  I've cycled through the overwhelming exhaustion and pride of new parenthood, the joy of experiencing each milestone, the frustration of each setback, and the celebration of each success.  Throughout it all, there has been so much love, even in the hard times.  My greatest hope is that in the frustrating moments when I lose my cool and don't live up to the example I want to be for them, my children will be able to look at me and see my love for them.  Hopefully they will be aware enough to forgive my mistake and think, "It's a phase; it will pass."

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