I only have sixteen summers left with my firstborn.
Sure that’s a stereotype and overgeneralization of the time it takes to parent. It could be less. It could be more. We don’t know anything about the time each of us has for anything, much less life in general. It’s a speculation.
I guess I’m realizing how “up close” the perspective and lens to view the world seems to be in parenting. We don’t linger long on the big picture. It’s too easy to get caught up in the part of the frame where the toddler whines a lot and has an excessive amount of needs. Or the part where there’s no time for adult conversation and connection with the spouse. Or maybe the part where the daily grind consists of coffee, diapers, nap, peanut butter scraping, bedtime, repeat. All of that sounds so bleak. There are so many bright moments too! But it’s hard to see those moments unless you widen your perspective and try to see more of the picture.
For instance, the toddler whining has a much less powerful influence on my mood when I take into account that it comes with complex concepts that he is learning and a huge amount of information he is taking into his overtired brain and emotional being. He can count to ten, knows our Christian names, understands the days of the week, prays his own prayers, and recognizes the subtle difference of emotion in someone else. The whining seems small in comparison to the amazing stuff I get to witness in addition. The witnessing of formation of a little soul and citizen brings a lot of joy to balance out the frustration of our close lens.
And as things form and fuse together, a sense of permanency arises with it. My firstborn has a wonderful sense of empathy. It is one of the factors that contributes to how sensitive he is and why he feels such strong emotions. That is probably not going to change, so rather than wishing away the moments and hours of frustration, I need to help him cultivate this gift and navigate the negative emotion that comes with it. After all, sixteen years is not a long time in that big picture. I don’t want to miss out on the wonder of this boy before he becomes a man.
He needs me now. He won’t always need me. He needs an extra sippy of milk, an extra story at bedtime, and an extra set of minutes to snuggle alone. He needs patience when he can’t understand and guidance when he faces a problem for the hundredth time that day. If he does not get these things, he will find a cruel world awaiting him that he will form and fuse himself to and that little flame of empathy will be put out. It will be replaced by cold, unfeeling, cynicism and desensitization. He will have much work to undo in his behavior if he even makes the realization that there is work to undo as he becomes a man and a citizen.
He will struggle to find joy unless I can find it first. This up close view is so important and I can only react properly if I take a step back and fit it all into the frame.
That is how we laugh at the ridiculous, cry at the sorrowful, and love when it’s hard. That is how we see the joy when it’s difficult to find.
What am I going to try to do with these sixteen summers?
Give a little more, fight less battles, spend more time taking a step back to look and listen, and ultimately, be a joyful mom. Life is too precious to waste it without true joy in each day with whatever we have been given.