Friday, June 21, 2013

So What Really Are the Best Years?

Every new parent has heard the warning: "Enjoy these years; they go by so fast." Yes, yes they do, but after spending a delightful morning and afternoon with my four-year-old and two-year-old I have to say that I do not miss the baby years.

My beautiful children were beautiful babies: chubby, blond, and the spitting image of...their father. I love my husband very much, but hearing over and over again that there was no mistaking the paternity of our children, especially with our little girl, got a little old. I really wanted a baby that looked like me, but apparently the genes run strong on my husband's side, and there was no escape for our children. I loved both children long before for they were born, from the moment we knew we were pregnant the love grew with each stage: the first ultrasound, the first kick, and the first time I held both of them in my arms. But each newborn experience brought its challenges. Our daughter was a terrible nurser, and at six weeks looked right at me with eyes that said "yeah, right." From that point on she was primarily on formula. It was an experience that brought on many not-so-proud parenting moments, including sobbing as I practically yelled at my two-week-old that she was going to starve if she didn't eat while she was screaming at me because she was hungry and just wanted a bottle. I had the opposite problem with our son who was insatiable. I couldn't feed him enough and felt like I spent the first weeks of his life with a baby attached to me at all times. Our challenge with our son was a series of ear infections that disrupted his sleep to the point where we are just now consistently sleeping through the night.

I loved their baby smell, kissing their tiny faces, fingers, and toes, snuggling when they allowed us to, watching them grow and experiencing all the new milestones (rolling over, crawling, first steps, first words, etc.) But there is a lot I don't miss. I don't miss waking up several times in the middle of the night, falling asleep in a rocking chair while feeding my infant and waking up thankful that I didn't drop my baby, a crying baby incapable of telling me what is wrong, having to carry an increasingly heavy child everywhere because they hadn't learned to walk yet, and many other things that I have apparently blocked out. It must be God's way of convincing us that we can have more than one child. It's not like we take pictures of the rough times with our children.

This summer, as I spend time with my lively, imaginative, and increasingly verbal children I am discovering that I not only love them dearly, but I find them to be a lot of fun to be around. Some might see this as callous. I said I love babies, but my experience over the last three weeks is teaching me that it only gets better. Yes, I did treasure the time that I spent with my babies, and I'm sure I'll miss those times when we hit the dreaded teen years (if my husband is any indication, we may be shipping my son off to military school around his 16th birthday) but listening to my son's growing vocabulary or my daughter's elaborate plans for when she and her brother are all grown up and living on their own (she currently sweetly believes that she is going to live with her brother and they are going to build a house together) and watching them play (and yes, fight) together with an imagination that I wish my students had still possessed when I directed the musical Seusical is just FUN! The first time my youngest (and at the time very single) sister visited her newborn niece she commented on the fact that she didn't really do anything. At the time it made me laugh. After all, I was a new mother madly in love with my little girl. She was everything. She wasn't boring. After four years watching her grow into the funny, smart, insightful, intelligent little girl she is now I can safely agree that yes, she was boring, but at the time I was rightly enjoying the moment, the experience of being a new parent who was enjoying the little bundle that God had blessed me with. But I'm loving this new stage as well. I'm more rested, I can have a conversation with both of my children (although conversations with a two-year-old are very limited), they both love sitting and listening to me read books, and their world is so BIG, at least in their eyes. Yes, as parents we should treasure each stage, including those dreaded teen years, and yes they go fast. But are any years really the best years? I don't think so. I believe they can only get better. And now I think I will go back to watching my children paint the front of my house with water and cheap paintbrushes.