When Parenting Firsts Become Lasts
I had another first in the realm of motherhood last week. My youngest started preschool. In our school district preschool is a half day every day, soooo it’s pretty much like half-day kindergarten.
Parenting is a Mixed Bag of Emotions
What a crazy mix of emotions as I sent kids off to school this year. I’ve had years that I couldn’t wait for school to start and others that I wanted the summer to last another two months. This year, I’m afraid it was the former.
This summer was particularly challenging as I tried to balance working from home and still doing fun stuff with the kids. We didn’t do as many activities as we usually do for a variety of reasons. The kids complained, but even if we did fun things every day, they would complain. I don’t base my success as a mother on the number of minutes per day my kids spend complaining.
I’m still trying to find the right balance.
There was a big part of me that looked forward to the start of the school year. It has brought with it the ability to work uninterrupted for almost the entire morning. Not only that, I don’t feel guilty while I’m working because my kids are at school.
Seriously, it’s awesome.
Then there is this other sentimental mommy part that sees her baby going to school and knows things will never be the same. We’ve entered a new season in our parenthood journey. From here, outside influences continue to grow stronger with each school year.
While I know that what happens at home is far more powerful than anything outside of it, it still tugs at my motherly heart to know my children are growing older. On one hand, it’s amazing to watch them grow more responsible and independent, while on the other it is crushing when their feelings are hurt or their egos take a bruising.
Slowly, very slowly because they still can’t seem to match a pair of socks without me, they need me less and less. My middle schooler didn’t need me to take her to the school the day before school started to find each classroom. She said she’d find her friends and figure it out from there. I’m glad, proud, and sad all at the same time.
Times and Seasons of Parenting
From the moment you bring your baby home you’re watching a series of firsts. First smile, first laugh, first wave, first tooth. With our first child, I was so excited for all the firsts and couldn’t wait for her to reach the next one.
Everything was new and magical to watch – not that it wasn’t fun to watch the others accomplish their firsts, but theirs weren’t parenting firsts. They were still fun to watch for their sake but not for my own.
Things changed with the second, third, and now the fourth child. His firsts are now my lasts. It leaves me wondering if I appreciated it all. The answer is, no, probably not. It’s hard to appreciate something that encompasses your entire life and purpose. The emotional and physical exhaustion of taking care of young children can be difficult to appreciate while you are in the middle of it.
To be honest, there are aspects that I am glad to leave behind. Mostly the baby parts because, while I loved my babies, the baby stage isn’t my favorite. There are no more diapers, late night feedings, and following them everywhere to make sure they don’t fall or destroy something. The physical toll is lessening, while the emotional one continues to rise.
But, there are other parts of baby/toddlerhood that I’m going to miss – listening to the pure innocence of a baby laugh, the pain and joy of learning to walk, and the hilarity of hearing their thoughts as they learn to speak. I always found their attachment and need to cling to me simultaneously endearing and frustrating. Now that they don’t cling much anymore, I find it purely magical when they want to hug me tight and hang on my neck.
I always found their attachment and need to cling to me simultaneously endearing and frustrating. Now that they don’t cling much anymore, I find it purely magical when they want to hug me tight and hang on my neck.
With their growing independence, my worries increase. I’m not worried about them falling off the swings anymore. Now I worry about the kinds of decisions they’re going to make. Their hurts are getting bigger and as much as I want to protect them from pain, there are some lessons they have to experience for themselves.
Appreciating What’s Past and Appreciating What’s Now
Change is part of life. Trying to fight it is like trying to stop the tide from coming in. It can’t be done. For the past 12 years, it’s felt like we’d never leave the diapers behind, and, yet, here we are. No diapers and all the kids in school.
Looking back, I am glad that I chose to stay home with my children rather than work at my job in marketing and sponsorship. It was not the easy choice but it was the right choice for our family. There have been many days I would have traded just about anything to have a job that got me out of the house and away from the kids for a few hours a week.
But now, as their hours away are increasing, I’m so glad I had all that time with them. I was there. I was present for almost everything. I may not have appreciated it then when it was happening, but I do now.
This new phase of parenthood comes with new freedoms for my husband and me, along with new responsibilities and experiences for our kids. As we search for our new normal, I am grateful for the perspective that children are a blessing not a burden.
Taking what I’ve learned about coming through the baby and toddler years, I appreciate where we are now. We’ve entered a new season that is part exciting, part overwhelming, and part sad. I’m especially grateful for the sad, oddly enough, because it means there were some great times, laughs, and experiences that we won’t have again. The important thing is that we DID have them.
I bask in the joy of picking up my son from preschool and listening to him tell me I’m beautiful. I listen to his lisp as he tells me about the boy that took the garbage truck from him at school. I feel his arms hug me tight because he’s glad to be home.
How could I possibly want it any other way?