I attended a baby shower a couple weeks ago. At the sign in table, there were slips of paper for guests to write down some wisdom or advice for the soon-to-be parents. I’ve participated in this shower ritual countless times since becoming a mom but I found myself wishing the slip of paper was much bigger this time. Maybe it was because I am once again (for the third time) deep in the trenches of the newborn period myself and feeling most days like I need wisdom and a lifeline. Probably it was because the honorees of the shower were my baby brother and beloved sister-in-law and the advice I want to impart and encourage them with can’t be contained on a post-it note. I hurriedly scrawled an abbreviated version of the thoughts below as I kept one eye on my roaming toddler. But in the weeks that have followed, I’ve found myself considering what I wrote and wanting to elaborate, so here is the longer explanation.
For my kind, earnest brother and empathic, impassioned sister-in-law as they are poised to become parents in just a few weeks. And for any other new parents reading who are questioning themselves, their choices, their spouses and their sanity.
Give it time.
The only constant in life and in parenting is change. As soon as we feel like we’ve gotten a handle on one phase, our kids grow and change and a new struggle to navigate arises. As a type A perfectionist, I went into parenting believing that if I just did enough research or tried enough strategies, I would eventually land on a solution to most problems I might face. But when nothing I was doing helped my oldest daughter to become a better sleeper, I had to come to terms with the fact that maybe the only solution to our problem was going to be time. This revelation came with some desperation, knowing that the sleepless nights could drag on for many more months but it also came with a certain amount of relief. I absolved myself of the guilt of not being able to fix it, gave myself permission to nap whenever and however I could, and reminded myself daily that this phase wouldn’t last forever.
Our oldest is about to turn six so we are still yet to navigate many of the trying transitions of parenting but this mantra of “give it time” has persisted as many difficult phases have come and gone.
When our daughter was going through an aggressive phase as an 18-month-old and hit us every time she didn’t get her way, all that helped was time. Time for her to improve her vocabulary and put words to her feelings of frustration; time for her to learn impulse control and be able to anticipate the consequences that would come if she lashed out.
During potty training when it seemed like my son was not getting it and I was never going to be able to leave my house again, all that helped was time. Time for him to make the connection between cause and effect; time for him to gain confidence in himself.
When my five-year-old daughter was despondent and weepy over having to start kindergarten and be away from home all day, five days a week, all that helped was time. Time for her to make friends to look forward to seeing each day; time for her to adjust to her new normal.