The days are long but the years will be short
We knew this day was coming.
We knew it from the first time we held her in the hospital that cold February night. We knew it was inching closer as we watched her take her first steps lunging towards the lights on the Christmas tree. We knew as we lay exhausted each night from diapers and bottles, carpool and practice, homework and heartaches. We knew this day was coming.
As the old saying goes, the days were long but the years were short.
In a short 20 days from now, I will be taking my first-born 1,000 miles away to college. As I reflect on the enormity of that reality, there are three things that stand out in my mind about this wonderful ride we call parenthood.
It’s not about perfection.
We live in a Pinterest world. Everywhere you turn there’s something prettier, shinier, fancier than the last version. Sometimes we feel like if we can’t do that, then why bother?
But kids don’t care about Pinterest. Actually, the fun is in the simple and really, in the failures. Doing things together, making things, trying new things, that is where the memories are made. Your kid is never going to remember that spectacular 2nd birthday party with the fancy cake and custom party favors. They will remember the way you all laughed until you cried when you tried to make snickerdoodles and they turned out like hockey pucks, almost burning down the kitchen in the process.
They want you. Your time, your laughter, your tears, your authentic, imperfect self. Memories are made in the doing. So take the pressure off from the perfect, and just get messy.
Pay attention to the signs.
It is easy to get bogged down in the daily work of parenting. Babies on a relentless schedule to keep, toddlers you’re just trying to keep alive, kids with crazy schedules and teens with attitude… it all becomes overwhelming.
I used to count down the minutes until all four of my kids were finally in bed, and I could collapse on the couch for a brief moment of adult sanity with my husband before I passed out from sheer exhaustion. Inevitably, five minutes later, I would hear a small voice or the patter of little feet needing “one more kiss” or another drink of water.
As my kids grew older, I learned that that time in the darkness, when they called me back into their room, was usually when they opened up about struggles and fears or shared shy whispers of loves and accomplishments. Later as I was carting around kids in what seemed like endless carpools and traffic circles, I discovered that my teens would talk to me in the car. When I was looking forward out the window, and they could talk without the embarrassment of me looking at them and getting emotional or “touchy-feely,” they talked. Really talked. I learned to watch for the signs that these small, seemingly insignificant moments or situations were about to become something powerful or precious.
The signs are always there, we just need to make sure we slow down, watch, and pay attention.
Spend your time wisely.
Dishes can wait. Laundry will always be there. Texts and emails can go unanswered and the world will not stop spinning. Take the time to lay down with them, read the story “one more time” for the thousandth time, go for the walk to look for roly-polys, get muddy splashing in the puddles and sticky eating that extra popsicle on a hot summer night.
Sometimes we forget the gift that it is to sit and rock a sleeping child. Those dirty little hands and feet will soon be running out the door. The unexpected snuggles on the couch on a rainy Saturday afternoon will be fewer and farther between. Babies don’t keep. They grow into curious kiddos and questioning teens and independent young adults.
So spend your time with them in each of those stages, whenever and however you can. When my 15-year-old son recently asked me to take him to dinner, I jumped on it. I know it may have just been about the free meal on his end, but a date night with my cute boy was all that mattered to me. So wrap up the dinner you were prepping and stick it in the fridge.
Food will keep. Kiddos won’t.
I have a dear friend who opens her home to serve as a foster family. She allows precious babies who need her to come into her life, knowing all the while that they will not stay. She loves them unconditionally and calls them daughter. She will pray for them every day for the rest of her life as if they were her own. She can do this because she knows that they were never hers, to begin with, just as her biological daughters never were.
Our children are on loan to us.
On loan from a heavenly Father who loves far greater and dreams far bigger for his children than we ever could. Our time with them is precious and sacred. His time with them is eternal. So, make the most of your time. They will always be our babies. They will always be part of our family, our lives, our hearts. But the day will come when you walk by their door and the room is dark and quiet.
There are 936 weeks from birth to graduation. This crazy season called parenthood, it’s the good stuff, but it goes by fast, and you don’t want to miss a single moment.
Putting Overwhelmed In Its Place
Have you ever struggled with knowing what to prioritize as parents? The dishes are dirty, the laundry needs folding, but yet we only have so much time with our children. In Not the Boss of Us, Kay Wyma encourages us to find perspective and put the feeling of being overwhelmed back in its place, to find lasting joy and freedom.