Blogger, Writer, Urban Adventurer
A few weeks ago, I was dropping off our twins at Sunday school and I saw a family with a four-year-old singleton and one-year-old boy/girl twins. That is the exactly same age gap and sibling dynamic as our children, except ours are now seven and four years old. It immediately struck me: this is what we looked like to outsiders three years ago. I took a moment and watched their family interactions. I’ll be honest—it looked crazy.
Now, I don’t mean “crazy” in a judgmental sense. They clearly had their acts together, with all the kids dressed and on-time for church. I mean “crazy” in a “that is a lot of small kids and would take serious time management skills to even be presentable at 9am” kinda way. Yet, we were that family just a few short years ago and I have no ideahow we did it. I know that lowering our standards helped a lot. But even when it appeared like we had it together on the outside, we never really did.
I think it’s a myth that you ever master parenting. All you have is will power and endurance to get through whatever phase you are currently in until the next, new set of challenges kicks in. Then you start all over again. Parenthood gives you super powers to handle impossible tasks that you are not remotely prepared for. It also gives you amnesia. You know when well-meaning elderly ladies tell you to “enjoy every moment” while your toddler melts down in the middle of Target? It’s the parent-amnesia talking. And when you ask, “Want to try for another kid?” right after you got the last one out of diapers—yep, amnesia.
I love the phrase, “the days are long, but the years are short.” It acknowledges that not every minute of every day is worth remembering. For every scrapbook worthy milestone, there are at least four other moments that we would rather not celebrate. Eventually, kids sleep through the night, use the potty on their own, dress themselves, take their own baths and use their own spoon. Just this year, our oldest started to pick up books and read them to her younger siblings. I can remember trying to teach her to read in kindergarten and my eye-twitching with all of her guessing and stubbornness to sound things out and now she’s just…reading. Long days, short years.
Parenthood is not a race to an arbitrary finish line. It is more like an oval track with hurdles. You never finish, but you do make progress. While we may never be done, I can look back and see which hurdles we’ve cleared even if I only have a foggy memory of how we got over them.
Tonight at dinner our kids would not sit still. I was begging them to sit down, eat and turn down the volume. As I was getting up to grab a drink refill, an older stranger came along side me and started talking. “Your kids. It’s a hard age.” I am guessing three more years from now, I will look back once again and think, “How did we get through that?”