There are so many layers, sides, and facets to parenthood. The truth is it is always changing, just like our kids are always changing and growing. Once you think you have one aspect figured out, it changes and you start all over again. Each stage is a new transition that takes time to “master”. And no matter what phase of parenting you are in, whether it’s your first time with a newborn, or you have a kid going off to college, it is still the first time you are going through something.
It could be the first time you are bringing a baby home from the hospital or the first time you are packing up your child’s room for a university. It might be the first time you are sending a little off to Kindergarten, or the first time you have a middle schooler. Or maybe for the first time you are planning your “baby’s” wedding. Whatever it is and whatever stage you are in, there are always still firsts to be had. If you feel like you have been stuck in the little years for 20 years, trust me, I have been there too and I promise you will survive.
The first time I had a newborn I thought the newborn stage was precious, but I was very eager to see my baby start interacting with me and the world, start crawling, eating solid food, and having a little independence. When I had my second baby and my first was only 20 months old, I couldn’t wait for the baby to grow up. I was overwhelmed with the “2 under 2” phase and desperately wanted a playmate for my eldest. But, when my third baby was born I truly appreciated the newborn stage. I loved snuggling my (very likely) last baby, I loved that he slept most of the day so I could focus my attention on his emotionally needy brothers, and I loved how helpless and squishy he was. I never wanted his newborn stage to end.
It’s crazy how each time I had a newborn my other kids had different needs. And I also had different needs. And each time I developed a new perspective on that stage. See, even if you think you are a master of something (I mean it was my THIRD time having a newborn) it doesn’t mean there aren’t new lessons to be learned or new blessings to be found. I know it often feels like the little years are a war zone. And you are just praying to survive (no matter how much Daniel Tiger it takes). Try not to overlook the present, I promise you will miss that newborn cry and those tiny little diapers.
Loving The Little Years
In her book, Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches, author Rachel Jankovic really focuses on the small changes you can make. And the small moments where you can offer up prayers of thanksgiving to God. She often talks about how a lot of our struggles are in our own attitudes. And as parents and that the work of a mother or father often starts within, with ourselves.
If we approach the day with a negative attitude, we are choosing to set the tone as so. Full of grumbling and complaining. But if we approach the day with thanksgiving, joy, and positivity, we will set ourselves up for success. It is often all about perspective. This, of course, is not easy and it is a daily struggle of checking yourself and your thoughts. We will fail time and time again. But that is why we need God and His grace to guide us through.
His Grace Is Our Guide
In Chapter 1 Jankovic writes, “I didn’t write this book because mothering little ones is easy for me. I wrote it because it isn’t. I know that this is a hard job because I am right here in the middle of it. And I know you need encouragement because I do too. This is not a tender reminiscence from someone who had children so long ago that she only remembers the sweet parts. At the time of writing this, I have three children in diapers, and I can recognize the sound of hundreds of toothpicks being dumped out in the hall.
This is a small collection of thoughts on mothering young children for when you are motivated, for when you are discouraged, for the times when discipline seems fruitless, and for when you are just plain old tired. The opportunities for growth abound here but you have to be willing. You have to open your heart to the tumble. As you deal with your children, deal with yourself always and first. This is what it looks like, and feels like, to walk as a mother with God.”
I think that pretty much sums it up. As a parent, bring yourselves before God daily. Ask for His guidance, grace, joy, and love. We were not made to do this alone, He is here, waiting for us in the trenches.