Five years ago, a 7 1/2 lb little miracle came into this world and changed mine forever. My Emerald arrived beautifully, an abstract bump under my shirt turned into a baby boy nestled in my arms overnight. I was young. I was tired. I was a brand new mom.
Born in May, his birthstone is the emerald. Quite fitting, representing new life and vibrant zest. He is both of those things to our family. I remember the first time my husband left me alone with him, just a day after we got home from the hospital. It was raining, and he had run out for some needed groceries. I remember holding this baby, wondering what I was suppose to do next. He was fed, dry, and asleep. Was I suppose to just sit there? Talk to him? Was it ok to set him down? I felt the eyes of the whole world on me, judging my fresh parenting abilities. I was scared. How could something so little be so terrifying? And how could my midwife have possibly sent me–little more than a glorified teenager–home with something as fragile and important as a baby. I could barely walk and keep my eyes open at the same time. How would I ever raise a child? In my postpartum fog I wondered who had come up with such a terrible idea. Seconds later the garage door opened, and I sighed in relief.
As the weeks went on I started slowly figuring him out. Nursing got better. Sleep got worse. He needed me constantly, no hour off-limits to his demands.
Now five years later, he is still a demanding kid. But five years later, I am not a rookie anymore. I’ve paid the dues and gained some valuable experience. And in that wisdom, I wish I could go back and tell these three things to that scared, tired new mom.
-It’s all about the relationship. The little years are built for starting, not finishing. Beginning the process, starting the training, laying the foundation for what’s to come. If the goal of the parent is to first nurture and protect the relationship with their child from day one, everything else will fall into place.
Being a mother to a stubborn, demanding boy has often left me standing in the hallway, holding a door shut with all my might while the 35lb preschooler without an ounce of self-control wails on the other side. In those horrible moments I used to ask myself “what else can I try?” or “why isn’t this working?” But with maturity I’ve grown to ask “what’s really important here?” Usually the answer has nothing to do with enforcing a rule and everything to do with restoring the relationship.
Parenting with rules in mind–even the unspoken ones– leads to standards: listen to mom, don’t bite, stay in your bed, eat what is made, share, obey, respect. Of course, limits teach good things–things a child needs to know. Rules are important.
Except when what they need to know gets in the way of who they need to know. Because rules build boundaries, expectations, order. Relationships build families.
-Parenting is not a sprint. It’s not a marathon. Both of those analogies imply that there is an end. And to cross the finish line, you’ve got to pace yourself correctly.
No, good parenting is not event; it’s a way of life.
Because the growing never stops. Yes, there are seasons. Linear phases that start all at once and then fade away. But the family is a cycle; it always keeps repeating. Always keeps multiplying.
I will never get to the other side. I will never be done. He designed that way. Trying to put things on hold or temporarily excuse the stunt in my own growth serves only to hold me back from fully embracing the enormously beautiful role I now have. My capacity to live has expanded.
My job as a mother will never be over; the relationship will mature, but the role remains the same. Cultivate the growth. Be there for them. Help them as they forge their own way. It is never going to end.
-It never gets any easier; you just get better at it. The first year I clung to the hope that things would get better. All those well-meaning people told me it would! I hoped and prayed that he would sleep through the night, and eventually he did. But it seemed as soon as one hard phase ended, a different one began. Five years in I’ve finally decided that there are certain things my children will never outgrow. It’s who they are; part of their makeup. Babies will always cry. Two year olds will always throw tantrums. No child is born with a deep love for sharing, and despite robotic vacuums the house will never clean itself. Life will not ever get easier.
But I’m better at it today than I was five years ago. I can work longer hours. On less sleep. With a better attitude. Not because I am supermom, but because I am a mom. Because this is my life. This is what is being asked of me. This is joy in obedience. Because instead of waiting for things to get easier, I decided to fully commit myself to the hard work.
He is not the same little bundle he was five years ago; neither am I. We’re growing up.