This is not a picture book review. It’s May and my oldest graduates from high school in less than two weeks, so life is too crazy to focus on a real review. Instead let’s talk about life. Sometimes we dread getting back to “real life” after a vacation. Or feel we don’t have a life when we-are-so-busy-we-can-barely-take-a-breath. But life happens on vacation, during those moments when we do (and don’t) catch our breaths, and especially, in the cracks and crevices of a busy existence. Life happens in every moment of every day, and if we pay attention, we’ll see it. But it’s a fleeting thing, and slides by in those sleep deprived moments of parenthood, in the blur of kids’ activities, in our own work, in traffic.
My kids are growing up fast. Next fall will mark a momentous time in our lives as we transition to our daughter going off to college. It’s been a challenging year as we prepare for that change: college applications, the wait for acceptances and financial aid, the inevitable emotional roller-coaster of senior year. My daughter’s activities have kept her as busy as always, but there is a different sense to them as we pass “the last of” each event. I’m proud of the person she is becoming, but I’m not quite ready to let go. Where did that time go? The fierce 2-year-old independence that led to massive temper tantrums now shows itself in wanting to be fiercely self-sufficient. Both ages vacillate between wanting to “do it myself” and needing support and security from Mom and Dad. Both are normal developmental stages. But did I fully enjoy that time of her growing up? Did I spend enough time? Have I taught her enough to allow her to spread her wings and fly? I can only hope I did my best. Sometimes we get lost in exhaustion, in worries, in running kids around, in doing laundry and making dinner, in all of our tasks and responsibilities. But life happens in those times. I can’t wish away those challenging stages, because it wishes away the beautiful moments that also happen. Because I was her Girl Scout leader, I taught her to bake, and I went on field trips and volunteered in school and with activities. It’s as important to remember when we are successful as it is to recognize when we can do better.
Sometimes I compare myself to young mamas who seem like they have it much more together than I did when my kids were little. But they don’t have the same kids, the same life situation, the same background, and they will make their own mistakes. Perhaps my younger kids will offer me a chance to do better. Still, some worries are the same: do I spend enough time? Do I guide them in the best way I can? But I have different successes and failures with them, because they are not their sister.
In general, I would advise parents of young kids to try to enjoy every difficult and beautiful moment of these times. You’ll often be sleep deprived, stressed, cleaning up diapers or vomit or messes, worried about challenges in your children’s lives, working to make ends meet, running around like a maniac to get one kid to soccer and another to piano lessons, volunteering in the classroom, helping with fundraisers for school or scouts or sports, and on and on. As parents, we do the best we can. Enjoy life in those little nooks and crannies. Kids grow up when we aren’t looking and before we are ready. I’m trying to be thankful for a messy house and a frenetic schedule. There’s a lot more life to be lived with my kids while they are kids.