I know people mean well when they say the “baby phase” goes quickly.
I know they mean to both remind parents with little kids to seek out daily joy and also to provide comfort by pointing out that these particular hardships won’t last.
These difficulties will turn into new ones. Kids, and people, will always face adversity in life, just like there’s always something special and wondrous present in each day.
But when we’re inside of this space with little kids — having to choose between spending time with our spouse and getting enough sleep; fighting little people to put on pants; showing them how to go to the bathroom in the potty while simultaneously never getting to use the bathroom alone ourselves ― it’s easy to offer tidy, pretty statements like “enjoy it” without genuinely offering worthwhile help or guidance.
Life isn’t always neat and tidy. Usually it’s not. Parenthood, of all life’s experiences, easily offers the most daunting responsibility, sheer happiness, and challenge.
Of course we know it “won’t last forever.” We know, too, our kids will grow and we’ll miss these days when they were so fully dependent on us. For me, this awareness amplifies these feelings of frustration and stress rather than alleviating them.
Right now I’m trying to get my toddler out of the house for an errand, and my 2-year-old won’t put on pants.
She. Will. Not. Put. On. Pants.
I’m close to giving up and letting her run pants-less around the house instead.
And it’s funny, isn’t it? This image of a grown-ass woman struggling to get clothes on a child? You have to laugh. I have to laugh. But still, the word “struggling” best describes how I feel in this moment.
I inhale deeply, and walk away from my toddler sitting on the living room carpet in only a diaper. I walk away. I remind myself she’s asserting her independence, and how I react to this assertion sets up not only the theme of our parent-child relationship, but how she learns to have disagreements with the world around her.
I’m not a good example most of the time ― that’s how it feels.
It feels like I yell, and I never wanted to be the parent that yells, yet here I am doing exactly this sometimes. It feels like I don’t have patience. It feels like I’m not doing a good enough job as a mom.
But I know I am. And I have to keep looking for where I shine as often and as freely as I look for where I need to improve.
I know that people mean well when they say things like “The baby phase doesn’t last forever” or “It goes so fast.” Perhaps the better words to share, though, are simply: “You’re doing a great job.”