Kids eventually graduate from infancy and toddlerhood but the demands of parenthood (and life) don’t go away. They simply change with time. We indubitably place our children’s needs to be fed, bathe, be changed and comforted in the middle of the night at the cost of our own hunger, hygiene or sleep. We derive great joy and satisfaction out of knowing we’ve provided for their physical and emotional needs and from watching them grow up strong and healthy.
The paradox lies in maintaining our own health simultaneously in order to offer the best to our kids.
Just the way our bodies need exercise and wholesome food to function optimally, our minds and our spirits cannot be ignored. It is through the fruit in our lives; our words, our actions, our thoughts, our relationships with ourselves and others that we see this careful tending of the life of our spirit or our habitual patterns of neglect. If we do not tend our gardens tenderly and with regularity, obviously they wilt, wither and become crowded with weeds.
How do we cherish the fleeting years when our children are small – the ones that seasoned parents perennially warn us “go by all too fast”? How can we go slow and fully appreciate the stage we are in which seems to dissolve into the next in the hours between naptime and dinner? How do we show up for the priceless moments we will look back on so wistfully while dodging one curveball upon the next, falling into bed at night just breathing our thanks that everybody got fed today, smiled, are healthy and safe.
And does something happen to parent’s memories after awhile, when time has buffered the stark reality of the early experience, that causes them to overlook the glassy-eyed, disheveled recipient of their well-meant but untenable advice. The counsel “cherish them while they’re young!” nestles into eager yet sleep-deprived, numbed brains of the first time mom or dad just trying to survive: We get it but we don’t get it. Not for a little while anyway. We know it must be true because everyone who has done it says the same thing. We have anxiety that we are not fully appreciating what we have and we have guilt for only thinking about how soon bedtime is.
This is my story but I know I am not alone.
The first solid year for me was about sheer survival. We survived.
I look back on when my son was tiny and I am amazed that it was real, it feels very much the way you would remember a dream. The details are hazy except for the feelings I felt. The feeling of drowning while my life was exploding all around me in the most beautiful, perfect, terrible way.
We nearing the close of year two now. And we are doing more than surviving. There are moments when I think we might we actually thriving – or at least on our way. I am grateful for what has come before but – hell no would I go back.
But this far in, here is still pretty much all I know:
In the pauses remember to breathe.
We can show up for our kids only when we first show up for ourselves.
When I taking the steps to become more fully aware of myself, of everything inside that affects how I live, how I parent and how I love myself and others I am giving my son the greatest gift I have to offer.
Brene Brown writes, “We cannot give our children what we don’t have. Where we are on our journey of living and loving with our whole hearts is a much stronger indicator of parenting success than anything we can learn from how-to books.” (The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, 2010)