I’ve definitely never been one to stoically power through hardships alone. I know I need the empathy and the support of others, and I really like to solve problems rather than wait them out. That led me as a young mother to pester (my word, not theirs) all of my more experienced friends for advice and encouragement that might give me respite from the living in the trenches that is inevitable with small children.
I received invaluable wisdom during those years that made me feel so blessed and firmly convinced that the mentor-ship the Bible speaks of in Titus 2
is really essential to a healthy and happy life. I didn’t always like the advice I received, or find it easy to implement, however. At some point each individual mother has to synthesize everything we hear and learn into a cohesive lifestyle that meets our needs uniquely.
Thankfully, it didn’t take too many years for me gain the confidence necessary to “do me” as a mom and be comfortable with the fact that my life looked different than others. Still, there was one piece of advice that grated on me more than the rest!
If someone suggested a discipline method that I just didn’t feel good about at my gut level, I could go with my gut. If they suggested a quick fix that required resources (grandparents next door, lots of money) that I just didn’t have, I could shrug my shoulders and move on the to the next possible solution.
But when they said this one thing, I felt my blood pressure rise out of my control. I heard it as the answer to umpteen different cries for help, from “How on earth can I get more sleep?” to “What can I do to get my kid to just pee in the toilet already?” Have you guessed at my pet peeve yet? “This stage of life will pass.”
When will I get to sit through a Church service again? This stage of life will pass.
How will I ever lose this baby weight when I keep having babies?
My kids are driving me crazy – how do you get yours to be so quiet? This stage of life will pass.
You’ve probably given or received that platitude, right? And maybe it doesn’t bother you the way it bothered me.
It’s taken a long time to really figure out why I hated hearing that so much. I thought I knew why at the time - I felt it was defeatist and lazy. It seemed like people just didn’t want to be intentional about their choices and their future and were just waiting for things to get better. I wanted action. And I was really gracious in my thoughts toward others, wasn’t I? (cringe)
Of course, like most things, it wasn’t really about the other people and their bad advice. The crux of it all for me was this terrifying thought: “But what if it isn’t just a stage?”
I had decided along the way that I wanted a large family. At least, I wanted a large family more than I wanted to have to worry about family planning. And while I wanted to space the births out if possible, I was open to having a dozen littles running around my feet. Twelve kids, one every two years, meant the potential of TWENTY FOUR YEARS in the particular “stage” I was struggling with. Lord, have mercy.
Even if I wasn’t blessed with that many children, one or more could have more complex needs. I could very well end up with a child that needed active parenting for decades longer than the others. Or anything could happen to make life difficult. Money or health trouble, death, depression, natural disasters, and all manner of unpredictable calamities seemed to be lurking right around the corner and everyone just wanted me to wait and see?
I’m sure you are wiser than me and can see right away the kind of life lessons that I was in store for. But really, we often can’t know until we know, right? So please hear that I totally get the special anxiety parenting brings. And I want you to hear something else, too. This stage of life will pass.
No, she did not just say that… I know, I know. I’m terrible. Such a let down that all those people were right. But also such a relief!
Because running around fearing that the dark tunnel I sometimes found myself in had no light at the end of it was exhausting.
And here’s the truth, expounded up so that it hopefully offers you more hope than just that one-sentence cliché: Even if you are in a place that you can’t completely escape, for longer than you think you can handle it, life is always changing.
Those sweet little terrors are growing up
– there’s nothing you can do about it. And eventually they will wipe their own butts. So, even if you have two more butts to wipe, it probably won’t be the same ones.
And if it is? Trust that other things change, too. You, for one!
You’re getting faster at folding laundry, and better at seeing toddler meltdowns coming before they reach critical mass. You are learning your children and your partner and yourself, and using that understanding to trouble-shoot all day long. You will enter into a new stage before you know it.
That stage will most certainly hold new trials, but you’ll have more confidence to meet them. And most of us do end up with help from those older children as they grow.
Today my nine and eleven year olds did the dishes, and my seven year old made his own sandwich for lunch. I did still have to wipe the four year old’s hiney, but I also got to leave him on the toilet for a minute while I finished a kitchen task without worrying about him falling in, or peeing on the floor.
Life is easier now than it was five years ago. I have more breathing room in my schedule, more helpers for the little things, fewer people trying their best to sever a limb or break a bone while exploring. I don’t have twelve children. There are still days when I wish I did, though.
I have four children on earth and one in Heaven. And that’s another thing I want you to understand: very few women end up with humongous families even if they want them. As time goes on various things will end up helping you choose, or decide for you, your family size.
I had eight children in my home the other day while a friend went to a doctor appointment. It was only a few hours, but it inspired this article because of another beautiful phenomenon that happens as children age: they entertain themselves and each other! That’s not to say they won’t need you, but they won’t need you as constantly as they did when they were 18 months old and three years old.
Change and growth are right and good. Newness in life keeps us from despair, and I am so thankful for the gift of the passage of time.
The next stages of life with my children will have their own troubles – teenage hormones and broken hearts, saying goodbye to childhood, watching them face their own fears – but they will also bring great joy. And so I’m choosing to find hope in the next stage. Will you?
Anjanette Barr is wife to a librarian, homeschooling mom to four, and ENFP enthusiastic pursuer of all hobbies (until she finds a new one). She currently lives on a micro-homestead in Juneau Alaska where she babies her ducks, chickens, wild roses, garden, Siamese cat, and worm farm in addition to her family.
You can find out more about her and her published books at:
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