Tuesday, April 29, 2008

When they're older

(Some posts just beg to be rerun now and then. If not for you, then most definitely for me.)

I got to thinking about something last night, just after I settled a dispute between Anne-with-an-e and Betsy (or was it between Betsy and Ramona? Or had Ramona been annoying Anne? Ahem. You get the picture.) I was tired, and when one is tired, even the littlest irritations loom large. A few tiny disagreements suddenly feel like near-constant bickering, picking-on, finger-pointing and tattling. Oh, my, the behavior of children. I mean, it's so ... immature.

I felt a little overwhelmed (did I mention I was tired? So much depends on a good night's sleep ....) Yes, I thought, this is the stage of life at which I'm currently parked:

My children are walking, talking, reasoning (mostly), sharp little tacks who constantly delight me but are also capable of draining my mental energy. They're all quite verbose (wonderfully and exquisitely so on the good days and "Do-you-ever-stop-talking?!" on the bad) and that's what can get me. It's not a physical exhaustion, but it can feel so. It's mental fatigue: the dragging of a mind forced to think of 17 different ways to say, "Be kinder," the sluggish tongue that must -- one more time -- wrap itself around the words, "Go tell your sister you're sorry. And please don't ever do that to her again when she's in the shower." It's the ambushed brain that can't take one more joke that involves body parts or functions.

This is where we are, I thought. But when they're older ....

"Uh-oh, stop right there, missy," I told myself. "Don't start playing, 'When they're older,' because it's a lose-lose proposition."

"When they're older" is the trap that entices you to long for a different stage of life. I sometimes fall into it, but it's not a good place to live. Because, you see, if I live my entire life in the "When They're Older" trap, before I know it, they'll be older. And they'll be gone.

It goes something like this, starting back in infancy:

When she's older, she won't wake me up every night.

(But she also won't coo and gurgle in that delicious way. She won't linger at nursing and enclose me in her eyes, telling me I'm her reason for being.)

When she's older, I won't need to carry her everywhere and then my back won't ache all the time.

(She also won't be portable enough to be cuddled, held and snuggled no matter where we are or what we're doing. She won't fit neatly into one arm and I won't be able to scoop her up to celebrate that she just mastered skipping.)

When she's older, I won't have to listen to "Why? Why? Why?" all the time.

(She also won't have that same awed look on her face that she got when she saw her first penguin at the zoo. She won't study caterpillars and ants for extended periods and she won't be delighted by pointing out water towers, having just learned what they are. She won't have that squeaky voice that personifies "ironic" when she says "Awwwww, look at that babeeee! He's so cuuuuute!")

When she's older, I won't have to listen to body function humor.

(Well, I can just keep hoping on this one.)

When she's older, she won't pick on her sister. She'll be too mature for that.

(And she'll be too mature to sit on my lap, play hide-n-seek, wear her hair in ponytails, jump rope, get that incredible shine in her eyes when she kicks a soccer ball and she'll no longer be more delighted by my company than anyone else's in the world. She'll have discovered there are other things and other people who are important to her.)

When she's older, she won't be so moody.

(Oh, wait. That's a woman-thing. That'll continue. That's okay.)

I've always found "When They're Older" to be counter-productive. Oh, sure, it might seem to comfort me at the time (and don't get me wrong, there's a valuable place for the "This too shall pass" philosophy) but most of the time, "When They're Older" is the opposite of comforting -- it's agitating. It forces us to live in and for the future. And when we do that, we miss so much of today. This Moment.

Rather, I must embrace that my children are just that. They're children. They're going to be childish. And my sometimes-ambushed brain has to shore up to handle one more joke, one more poor choice, one more tattle. I have to remind myself that bad days make it feel as if this happens all the time, but I know that it doesn't. Because on the same day there's been tattling, a poor choice and a joke that only a daddy can appreciate, there've also been cuddles and hugs and beaming looks of love. There have been discussions that run deeper than I thought a ten-year-old could handle and insights so moving that I've gotten a glimpse at the woman my daughter will become. There have been tea parties and read-alouds, girl-talk and cookies in the oven.

There's been the delight of "I'm so glad they're this age. I'm so glad for now. I'm so blessed by today. I'm so in love with this moment."

Today, I won't fall into the "When They're Older" trap. When they're older, they'll certainly be more mature.

But they won't be here.

And I'll miss them. So very, very much.

15 comments:

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for reposting this. I really needed to read it today and remember that every stage has it's blessings and joy.

Anonymous said...

Thnak you. I needed this today. Maybe I'll make some cookies...

Mary DTP said...

Perfect timing. I so needed to hear this today. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Oops. that last comment was me. Blogger always does this to me.

Anonymous said...

Good grief. It did it again. I give up! Rebecca at Little homeschool on the Prairie.

Patience said...

Oh great. You've completely ruined the calm acceptance I'd reached only last night that there were no more little children for me and it was okay after all that Rose is rocketing into adolescence. Now I'm just going to go away and have a wee cry ...

;-)

Seriously though, this is a beautiful post. I'm so glad you reposted it. Its the kind of post that needs to pop up on a regular basis!

Journey of Truth said...

Bravo! I've been telling my friends with the wee ones (I have three at 14, 12, and 10) that they grow up fast enough as it is. We all need to slow down and respect and love God's timing.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Mine are older and I miss the nursing babies, the cuddly toddlers, the people who think you're the smartest person in the whole universe. It was nice when five minutes at the breast could soothe any sorrow and a kiss could heal nearly every hurt, when I had all the answers to their dilemmas. Life is a whole lot more complicated now, and even the stage you are at sometimes looks very, very inviting. Oh for the days when the biggest problem was squabbles between kids instead of the battle between the kids and the rest of the world out there (employers who don't want to hire, landlords who charge outrageous rents, people who take advantage of you, price gouging oil traders who make travel too expensive, bad haircuts, fickle friends). Believe me you don't want to hurry the process one minute faster it actually happens. It's so much nicer when you actually can still solve the problems. It's nice feeling competent. Now all I can do most of the time is pray. It's probably better for them and me, but it's not so great for the ego as being mommy who can fix everything.

Elizabeth said...

Very well said. I had a reminder of this today myself. I linked to your post on my blog.

momto5minnies said...

What a lovely post Karen! I loved reading this and being reminded to cherish each moment. THANKS.

Karen said...

So lovely. So true! And much-needed reminder with the struggles (my boys are in the potty-talk 24/7 phase and I find myself wishing them through it....which would take me to what age for them exactly?!!!).

EmilyC said...

Thank you for reposting this. Really, really, thank you. I so needed to read that. I've been living in the "when they're older..." mindset for much too long.

Sarah said...

In this ministry of blogging, you do so much for making me look at those little STILL AWAKE faces and rethink the thoughts that were starting to charge through my head. In reposting something that you wrote however-long-ago, you share wisdom that some of us with younger, sprightlier, not-sleeping-right-now children need to hear. In being the wonderful friend you are, you give us a tangible way to STOP and appreciate where we're at RIGHT NOW.

Thank you, dear Karen. Thank you.

Karen E. said...

Thank you, all, for such lovely comments! And, Sarah, stop it ... you're making me tear up ....

iajadn said...

Oh my....so true. Thanks for the wisdom and tears!!