When I was pregnant with my first child, I started paying a lot of attention to blogs and social media posts about parenting. One theme I frequently came across, particularly on social media, was about unsolicited advice from other people. I found lots of articles and posts about moms’ experiences with family members, friends, and strangers giving usually well-meaning but often unwanted advice.
I never experienced that much with either of my pregnancies. I never had the random stranger try to touch my stomach or tell me what to eat or how I should birth and raise my babies. I have been fortunate to receive needed and wanted advice from our parents and friends that I trust, who have walked alongside us over the last few years as we have become parents.
Our kids are two and one now. We haven’t been doing this parenting thing very long. In this short time, I have noticed that there is one piece of advice that I have received more than any other. It is always unsolicited, yet, it is always welcome. I never get tired of hearing it. The phrasing may not always be the same but the message is:
Enjoy your kids.
I have heard some variation of this advice from family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers—while standing in line at the pharmacy, in passing at work, and in countless other conversations along the way. Each time it comes from people who observe us in the often chaotic throes of parenting toddlers, who have older children and know firsthand how fast this stage passes.
Short Years. Long and Short Days.
There is a saying about parenting: “The days are long but the years are short.” Lately that saying doesn’t ring true. It all feels too short. Days and weeks pass and I can barely keep up with how big my kids are growing right before my eyes.
However, I felt that saying deeply in those first days and months of becoming a new mom. The first month after my daughter’s was born felt like the longest month of my entire life. I did not enter motherhood gracefully. There was a combination of factors for this (one of which I wrote about here) but that’s another post for another time.
Suffice it to say that I have spent a lot of time feeling guilty and regretting how much time I wasted when my daughter was a baby. Though I was with her every day, I was not very present. I did not enjoy her as much as I should have. Thankfully, the Lord graciously helped me realize this error sooner rather than later so that I wouldn’t waste all of my kids’ baby and toddler years.
Hard Things Are Often the Best Things
I have always struggled to reconcile that hard things can also be good things. In my head, I know that Scripture teaches that all things work together for our good. That is, all things work out to make us more like Christ (Romans 8). Becoming more like Christ is our end goal and the Lord uses hard things to sanctify us. I must admit, though, that my heart doesn’t always track with my head knowledge. It’s very difficult for me to see past the hard thing to the benefit and joy of knowing that through it, the Lord is doing a good work in me for His glory.
Parenting has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But, in this season while my kids are still so little, the hard parts are mostly due to the fact that they daily force me to confront idols I never knew I had until they came along.
Being a mom has not been the same kind of hard as suffering or grieving, though. That may come with my kids as they get older, but right now raising my kids has also been fun, joy-filled, magical, and one of the best gifts the Lord could have given me.
I don’t want to miss it just because I’m more tired than I used to be or more selfish than I should be. Viewed rightly, I know that being my kids’ mom is the most fun hard thing I could ever experience.
Sometimes I look at my kids and I can’t believe I get to be their mom. I always thought it was weird when parents said that, until I became one. I hear my kids try to make each other laugh in the backseat. I watch my daughter care for her dolls in the same way I care for her baby brother. My son randomly stops what he’s doing just to give me a hug. When they inexplicably bawk like chickens in the middle of Panera, I can’t imagine a sweeter season of life.
Recently, a friend who has teenagers gave this advice to us in what has been my favorite phrasing thus far. “Just play. Play with them. These are fun years.”
She’s right. This season is so much fun. There is a ton of joy and play and laughter. I don’t always recognize it as such, but I am able to recognize it much more frequently than I used to.
And it has been due in large part to the unsolicited but most welcomed advice of parents whose kids are grown. They are on the other side of what I am only beginning to experience—that time seems to speed up by one hundred percent when you start watching it pass in the faces of your children.