Once upon a time I heard sweet songs on the radio about missing stages of childhood and babies being grown, and I smiled and moved on about my day. Now I hear that song and my eyes immediately fill with tears, as I now have one kid in elementary school and another in part-time PreK and it feels a little too real.
Here are some of my favorite parenting clichés that turned out to be truer than I expected:
You’re going to miss this. If you’d told me when I was elbow deep in diapers that one day I’d miss it, I’d have laughed in your face. But now that newborn snuggles and sticky toddler hands are a thing of the past, I do miss it. It doesn’t matter the mood of the baby I see in the grocery store, I’ll find my eyes getting moist and my mind gets a bit wistful as I remember the sensation of burrowing my face into that downy soft hair to kiss them. Thankfully, my four-year-old regularly reprises the sticky hands stage and I’m reminded that it’s easier to miss things with nostalgia glasses.
The days are long, but the years are short. Dang, did this take me by surprise. Working from home with little itty-bitty babies was so hard; some days felt like they were an eternity long. Now a week goes by in the blink of an eye, and my youngest has already had five Christmases. How?! Time is a saucy minx that slips through your fingers if you blink.
It takes a village. This is a tough one. Yes, it does take a village to raise a child. But not everyone lives near their village, or maybe their village looks a little different than they expected. But if we have someone who speaks positively into our kids’ lives, they count as part of our village. Whether it’s a friend, teacher, coach, or a stranger in the store who takes the time to smile and compliment your kid on helping you carry groceries, each interaction matters. To appreciate our village, we may have to broaden our expectation of what that means.
It’s just a phase. Yep, and sometimes it’s a super hard one! Some phases are tougher than others (I know I’m more willing to back through the Daniel Tiger phase than the potty training phase, personally). This one is a good mantra to repeat to yourself, but be careful before doling it out to anyone else: you don’t want to invalidate their experience by dismissing what they’re going through as ‘just a phase.’
Tired takes on new meaning with kids. There is no bone tired like up with a baby all night tired, or up with a sick kid tired, or up with a heartsick kid tired. If you’re up with a kid when anyone reasonable is asleep, that’s its own brand of sleepy. But it’s a worthwhile tired because it comes from caring for someone else and giving them all of you. It might not make you any less sleepy, but it makes it less of a burden.
These words have weight, and they impact our thoughts whether we want them to or not. We need to take care when we let these words slip out, as they can be harmful. When I was in the throes of the terrible twos and had a six-month-old suffering through his first cold, being told I was going to miss that was hurtful and wrong. I don’t miss tantrums or sickness (ha, can’t miss something you still have, right?!), but being told in that moment only caused pain; I felt shameful about expressing my struggle, and it did nothing to help me. So if a parenting cliché rings true for you, that’s wonderful. But remember what we teach our kiddos: there’s a time and a place, and if used in the wrong setting our words only will be hurtful instead of helpful.