Are We There Yet?!

We spend these first four or five or six or eight years of parenting racing for some kind of finish line, as if we’re getting through the hard part, the sleepless nights and the soiled mattresses and the hitting and the spitting and the defiance and the complete and total meltdowns over mechanical pencil lead and other inexplicable things and the sitting down in the middle of the sidewalk and refusing to budge and the fussing and the fighting and the –

We think, oh, it will so nice when they’re older, six, seven, eight, nine, twelve. It will be so nice when we… can go on family road trips. It will be so nice when –

In the midst – or is it the mist – of this illusion, there is absolutely nothing more delicious in the whole wide world than a four-year-old’s skin, dry and soft after a bath, or than standing back and watching her master the spelling and writing of her name, which has “five letters” she’ll tell you. No amount of whining or pouting holds a candle to seeing a little vase of hand-picked garden flowers surrounded by the clutter of red plastic cups and discarded beer cans on the picnic table in the yard next door, where the new crop of students is partying hard and gearing up for fall – and learning that your almost-second-grader delivered them, with her own carefully crafted message: “Thanks for letting me sleep.” What “someday” could ever top a “girl bath” where we three wash each other’s boobs and laugh our heads off?

But one word from you, one conciliatory gesture, and she goes into that turtle shell position, the one she has used as a shield for years now. “I don’t like feeling BLAMED for things!!!” she yells and storms out the front door. And it is at moments like this that you think, holy shit. We had it backwards. All these early years have only been the beginning. September is hours away and suddenly you’re looking at homework and soccer practice and play rehearsals and preschool drop-offs in the context of job-searching and interviewing and making dinner and taking out the recycling and navigating some of the most complex and high-stakes questions of your life –

and you have this moment, this morning, one kid holed up alone upstairs with circles under her eyes from reading Harry Potter in her sleeping bag at the top of the stairs until 10:00pm, the other in the kitchen with that post-meltdown catch in her breath, finally eating some cereal (note to self: morning hunger = meltdowns), where you realize, for the millionth time, the obvious: There is no “hard” part. There is no “easier” part. There are no “parts” at all. There is each moment. Each mood. Each wave, each crest and crash. There is each recovery and each button pushed and each “Don’t talk back” moment where you can’t believe it’s you talking. There is the paralysis and inertia of doing the same thing over and over and wondering why “it’s not working.” There is the stepping back to see, to choose, and the stepping in, on purpose, to respond, to speak, to connect, to be clear or firm or kind or yielding or tender or assertive or whatever the case may be. And none of this happens in the haze of fear or the mist of an illusion that certain years or ages or kids are “hard” or “easy.”

And then we think… thank God school starts tomorrow.

9 thoughts on “Are We There Yet?!

  1. Sandy says:

    So glad to see your post’s feed show up in my inbox. Was just missing you this morning.

    No pressure! But when you write a post, you’re much appreciated here in my house.


  2. julie says:

    There is each moment. Yes!!

    We spend so much time wishing the next stage will start because ‘such and such’ will be easier only to end up wishing you could stop time. Or at least slow it down a bit.

    My 10 year old is starting Middle School tomorrow morning. Those 5 years of Elementary school (K-4 here) went by in a flash.

    Though I am looking forward for my boys to be back in school tomorrow, I can’t help being a little sad. It means they are no longer in 2nd and 4th grade. I will miss their little selves as they grow up into their older selves.


  3. Holly says:

    So lovingly and poetically put..made me a little teary as mine are now 28 and 31 and it’s hard for me to remember the struggles over spelling that long ago.


  4. Renae C says:

    The moments… of a furtive lie to hide a forgotten homework assignment – which has earned hard labor over Labor Day weekend. Of 5am snuggles because of a bad dream. And the moments of reading logs and soccer schedules and piano recitals and the first notes of a new band trumpet. No, it never gets easier. It just changes, rolling back over itself in new and different ways, catching us off guard just when we think we might have it figure out.

    School started here last week – Thanks be to God!


  5. Sandra says:

    For me, the difficulty or ease of a moment has more to do with my own perception of it. When I am feeling whole and rested it’s all a little easier. When I am on edge everything is so hard I want to quit. I have to remember to give myself a chance to rest and renew so that I can ride the up’s and down’s more easily.

    Lovely post. Parenting is a task like no other. The constant push/pull of our minds, emotions, and bodies is what we want and don’t want all at the same time.


  6. GailNHB says:

    I had the honor and challenge of having this very conversation with my 16 year old daughter yesterday: “there is no need to compare yourself to others. no need to wish you ‘fit in.’ no need to worry that you are the only one feeling the way that you feel. just be here now. feel this. love this. hate this. and remember that this moment is all you’ve got, and then it passes on to the next moment. and also – i want you to know that i continue to struggle with these same issues and feelings and fears and doubts, and i’m a whole lot older than you. you are not alone. we are all struggling to stay right here, right now, in this moment, in this place. after all, this moment is all we’ve got.”

    we laughed. we cried. we hugged. we moaned. we groaned. and we promised each other than when these feelings resurface, we will do it all over again and again and again after that.



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