Once upon a time, someone shared the saying, “The days are long but the years are short” and I didn’t fully understand the significance of these words. That is, until my children became adults.
The photo I have featured here is from October of 2008. At the time, my children were ages 8, 4, and 10 months. It was a busy season of parenting, which all of you can certainly understand. Between the daily tasks of taking my oldest son to first grade, dropping my daughter off at preschool, and making sure my infant son got his morning nap, the days became a blur. I survived on lots of coffee!
Today I have a son who is a junior in college and lives on his own, my daughter is a high school senior and getting ready for college, and my youngest son is in eighth grade and wants to be all grown up like his older siblings. Busy? Not as much as the days of play dates, field trips and bottle feedings.
Here is what I have learned as a parent for 20-plus years.
On my oldest son’s first birthday, I had plans to leave work early and decorate a home-baked birthday cake. Once out of the parking lot, I discovered a flat tire. Two hours later, I made it to his birthday party with five minutes to decorate the cake. It looked awful and I felt so guilty! I’ll never forget my mother-in-law saying something to the effect of, “He’s so young. He won’t remember that birthday cake, but he will always love you.” Almost 20 years later, I can pause and reflect on her words. The most important thing I learned is showing up as a parent, being present, and letting the little things go because no one is perfect. Which leads to the next point.
No Family Is Perfect
With social media, it is easy to take a look at other people’s lives. Who doesn’t love gazing at photos of children’s birthday parties, family vacations, and other special occasions? What tends to happen is that I begin to compare my out-of-focus snapshots of a weekend family getaway to other families’ Instagram-worthy photos and seemingly perfect lives. Yet those pictures may be edited and filtered to perfection. It is not real life, so I need to stop comparing and focus on being grateful for those who I love. Which leads to the final point.
As a mom with children entering adulthood, I understand now why the parenting years truly are short: because the days of raising children are BUSY! We don’t get to sleep in because preschoolers are hungry and need to be taken to school. The weekends are a flurry of doing laundry, shopping, and reading just one more bedtime story to a little one who is not sleepy. You don’t need me to tell you how hard of a job being a parent is because you already know. What I can say is just be thankful. Even if the house is dirty and the car is filled with half-empty sippy cups and everything is due for a cleaning. Be thankful. Your family loves you just because.
Here is a more recent, slightly out-of-focus photo of my family…