I was recently chatting with someone about young kids and their development. I told her how amazed I am whenever I think about how much is happening in their brains and bodies from birth to age three.
She nodded, then grinned at Emmeline, who was busy being adorable in my lap.
“Is it hard being a mom,” she asked, “when they grow and change so fast?”
A few months back, I was working on our family photo book for 2020 (because why rush into these kinds of things?), when Katie came up behind me. Wrinkling her nose, she pointed at my screen.
“Oh, no, Mom. Don’t use that one!”
I looked at the picture in question. She was grinning at the camera. On her nose perched a pair of plastic pink sunglasses, minus the lenses. I could see nothing amiss.
She rolled her eyes. “Because. Those glasses make me look ridiculous!”
A few weeks before Katie’s second birthday, I posted a question to my Facebook friends. I asked those who were parents if they had a favorite age.
Really, though, I was looking for assurance. I was feeling the pull of time, its steady relentless march. All too aware of the myriad voices encouraging me to “enjoy every moment,” I wanted someone to tell me I didn’t have to cling too tightly, to say that there was good yet to come.
I’m happy to report that my friends pulled through for me. While many people chimed in acknowledging the fun of the talking-but-not-talking-back age set, they also gave me glimpses of what was to come: ever-expanding knowledge and horizons. Deep conversations. Growing relationships.
The gist of it all was what I needed to hear: there are joys and challenges to every stage along the way.
Which is true not just of parenting, but of life.
Back to pink lens-less sunglasses. Five-year-old Katie had received them at a birthday party sometime in the first few months of 2020 (Do you remember then? Back when a certain virus-which-shall-not-be-named was just a rumor and we had one fewer thing to divide us? Those were some good times.) and they were her go-to fashion accessory for many weeks. She wouldn’t leave the house without them.
I explained this to seven-year-old Katie. I told her that the photo should stay, because it was a good representation of who she was at the time. I wanted our yearly albums to give us a window into our lives at that time, and our lives at that time involved a girl who dearly loved those frames.
She shook her head, but relented.
“Ok, I guess as long as everyone realizes I was just a little kid back then.”
I used to struggle more with the fleeting nature of childhood. When Katie was a baby, I felt this urgent need to cling to every memory, to grab onto everything I could before it slipped away. There were days I felt as though I was a failure, as though I wasn’t treasuring the current stage enough, as though I was squandering this time with my baby by not giving it the appreciation it was due. I grieved the end of my kids’ childhood when my first wasn’t even one.
These days, praise God, I rarely find myself in that spot. Usually, I’m content, enjoying each of my kids for where they are right now. Her question–the one about kids growing so quickly–caught me by surprise because it’s just not something I give much thought to right now.
I couldn’t tell you what changed in the past seven years. Maybe I’ve matured some (ha!) or maybe I’m in a better mental place (fish oil for the win) or maybe I just don’t have the time to get all nostalgic and sad about something that hasn’t even happened yet.
Maybe, though, I’m learning what my friends were trying to tell me: that all stages, every bit of this life, has joy in the midst of the challenges, if only I have eyes to see.
Before writing this post, I asked Katie if I could tell the story of her pink glasses. Her immediate response was flat-out denial.
“No, Mom! If I didn’t want it in the photo book, why would I want it all over the Internet?!?”
“I won’t post the picture,” I told her, then added, hopeful, “unless you change your mind. I just want to write about it.”
She was still hesitant.
“How about I read it to you after it’s done. And then, if you don’t want me to post it, I won’t.”
She thought about it, then nodded.
“Yeah, I guess that’s ok. As long as I can read it first.”
(For the record, I kept my word. I read it to her and asked if I could post it and she said yes. Which is why you’re reading this right now.
Also? Her only feedback: “Yes, you can post it. But I think you should delete all that stuff about people asking you questions and Facebook and blah, blah, blah.”)
When I stop to think about it, I miss spunky five-year-old-with-her-own-sense-of-style Katie.
But you know what? I love getting to spend my days with seven-year-old-thinking-and-growing-and-reasoning-and-learning Katie (and all of her younger siblings at their various ages and stages).
Is it hard being a mom when they grow and change so fast?
And also, no.