As a parent, the days and nights are long but the years are somehow so short. I never quite understood this complexity until I had children of my own. Through each new phase of parenting, I am realizing that no matter the trials that come with it, there is always, always something to be joyful for!
We have all seen them, the new mom (or dad) with a brand new baby. They have dark circles around their eyes, hair that hasn’t seen shampoo...or a brush in a few days, spit-up stained clothes, and the look of sheer exhaustion has overcome them. From a distance, and perhaps even up close life looks challenging and not too enjoyable. But beyond those circumstances is something so sweet, something to be cherished. The joy that new life brings is unexplainable. It’s magical. It’s raw. It’s pure. I’m not sure there is anything better than the scent of a brand new baby; I wish it could be bottled up and sold! The feeling of a tiny little human snuggled up against your chest. The examination of every feature to compare which ones came from mom or dad. Showing any willing audience a picture of your wee one. These are the moments of JOY that the first few months radiate. Precious little rubies they are.
From infancy we progress to the trials of toddlerhood. The terrible twos (and threes) are no joke, people. They are a very real thing!! I am currently in the trenches of them! However, at the end of each day, when I peer over the rails of my baby girl’s white crib, I can’t help but love her so deeply that my heart almost hurts. It is a special kind of love. A love that exists even after the 565th temper tantrum, hitting, biting, hearing the word “no” more times that one thought humanly possible, not having one second alone. This love is deep, it has to be. When I want to run and hide in my closet (I may or may not actually do so once a day), I look at all the exciting things my toddler is experiencing and doing, and again, that feeling of joy overcomes me. Seeing the world through their innocent eyes...watching them learn how to walk, distinguish between colors, count to 5, and talk...JOY!
The preschool and elementary years have their difficulties as well. The schedules that come with a child in school, and those that have extra curricular activities can be exhausting as well. I have a 7 year old son who has homework every day, basketball practice two evenings a week, and games on Saturday. By the end of the day I often wonder if I told him I loved him, am proud of him, and think he is amazing (because he is!!), or did I just constantly tell him to do this, do that! Go here...go there. It’s hard. It’s draining. It’s life with kids who can talk and have opinions. Ha! But in case you haven’t caught on yet, there is a pattern here...joy! Even in this season of rearing children who question, test boundaries, disobey, and make you want to scream...there is JOY! This is the stage in parenting that can have so many sweet moments. That once non-verbal child can talk to you! They can tell you all about their day, what they like/don’t like. They can go on special little dates with you, and develop a unique relationship.
I’m not here yet, but I am fairly confident I can say that raising high school and college age students is probably one of the most stressful seasons in parenting... but it is HAS to be one of the most joyful ones, too! To see your child mature, develop life passions, cultivate lasting friendships and relationships, pick a college, choose a major, graduate!!, get married and have children of their own!! This has to be such a bitter-sweet, joyful thing. Life is funny. The very things that bring us the most discomfort, are often times the things that bring us the most joy. They are some of our greatest treasures, and what we usually long to could do again. Instead of wishing the early, middle, and even later years away, let's embrace them! Let's find the JOY in raising our children and realize that while it may not always be easy, it has purpose. It means something. It’s a gift. So, I raise my (cold) cup of coffee to my fellow mothers and fathers in the trenches of parenting, and declare that even in our worst parenting moments, we always, always have something to be joyful for!!
P.S. This entire entry was written with a cranky toddler (who refused to nap today) on my lap. The joy in this moment? Sweet kisses, hugs, and snuggles that she will one day no longer desire. JOY!
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