I remember the first time it hit me . . .
the realization that “time” in the life of a child is fleeting.
I was newly postpartum, holding my son while he slept; and, I couldn’t remove the thought that each day, each week, each month that passed, I wouldn’t get that time back. He was changing so fast––each month I had a different child, which incited both grief and excitement. And unfortunately, social media added to the inner turmoil with content like “cherish every minute” and “time is a thief” embedded in each scroll. So, I was determined to soak up every second.
After coming out of the fog of the first year, my son’s personality and independence was flourishing. I felt . . . relief. But, why? I was engaged, present, and loving this whole time. And then, well into toddlerhood, another realization hit me . . .
I didn’t really like the baby phase.
Immediately, I felt guilt and, on my darker days, shame. Did this make me a bad mother? Wasn’t I supposed to love every moment, every phase? Isn’t that what every mother before me said to do? Is it just me?
If you’re asking yourself these exact questions, I have hope for you. It’s okay to not like every stage of your child’s development. *GASP* Because not liking a stage in their development has nothing to do with your love for your child.
If I could take a guess, you’re still:
meeting your kid’s physical needs.
providing a safe environment for your kid.
showing your kid love and affection.
building a relationship with your kid.
creating fun for your kid . . .
. . . and so much more.
I show up for him, like I imagine you do for your kid, every day.
And on the days that I struggle with a particularly difficult developmental moment (we’re currently navigating big feelings), I focus on these three things to bring joy to the present.
Focus on the Relationship
Sometimes I have a tendency to go into full “I’m the parent” mode. This makes me want to control the outcome, and consequently, his behavior. That makes the changes he’s experiencing harder for both of us. Instead, I’m now trying to focus on our relationship. I listen to his feelings. I repeat them back to him. I attempt to find solidarity with him in what he’s struggling with. We hug and work together to find solutions. This may not work every time, but reframing my mind from “control” to “relationship” helps me see his needs and meet him in his humanity.
Celebrate the Completion
In the preschool phase, things change quickly. Once my husband and I notice something has changed, we celebrate it. Nothing elaborate, just a shared dessert and recognition of what we liked and didn’t like about what has passed. We will reminisce on what we miss and ponder on the days ahead with anticipation. These small acts of celebration allow us to feel a sense of closure with moments we loved and allow us to gladly say goodbye to those we didn’t.
Share the Struggle
When I hit hard moments––feeding issues, sleep regressions, teething, unexplained tantrums, potty training––I reach out to my community of friends and family. Because when you’re not enjoying the moment, isolation can multiply the negativity. Hearing their shared experiences, or offering ways they work through their own moments, helps me shape my own perspective. It’s amazing what that mental shift and relational connection can do for me when my mood is low.
Parenting is hard, no matter the phase you’re in. We may not like every moment, but we love our kids. And when you consistently show up and embrace their needs, you’re building a trusting relationship that supersedes those not-so-enjoyable moments.