Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Will I Ever Learn?

As my children get older, I do look back on their early years with a degree of regret. I spent many of the hours with them as small children utterly exhausted, frustrated, and discouraged. How many days did I wish would just be over, already? How many nights did I refuse to read to them, because I needed them to be in bed, be quiet, or I had a screaming baby to tend to or horrendous pregnancy nausea to contend with. How many times did they want to spend time with me while I was "getting a moment of peace", and I sent them away? How many times did I shut my ears to their stories, their questions, their frustrations? I just spent so much of my time feeling overwhelmed, and mightily discouraged.

If I could talks to my younger self now, I could set her straight on many things. But knowing my younger self as I do, she wouldn't have listened, would have continued to take on too many tasks, worries and comparisons, and would have discounted me a an old softie.

When I think back to my eldest, I try to remember him as a little boy. It isn't that hard, but what I remember most is I was always pushing him along the growing up path. He HAD to be big. He HAD to help, and he HAD to entertain himself frequently. When he was 5, he had 3 little siblings, I was trying to home school him, and as I recall, he stumped me the very first day. I'll tell that story, just for fun:

Kindergarten, day one, eldest child. First subject: Religion. Bible story, Genesis 1:1. As we go through the days of creation, he is to listen to me read, re-tell the story to me, and then draw a picture of each day for his notebook. Sounds easy enough.

Day 1, Let there be light! Cute retelling, darling little picture.
Day 2, God separates the light from the darkness. Again, all is well.
Day 3, God separates the land from the sea. Okay, easy picture.
Day 4, God created the sun, moon and stars. HOLD EVERYTHING!! My darling little newly minted home schooled child cannot go on. This doesn't make sense. Mom, how could God make light on the first day, and not make the sun until the 4th day? What was the light he made on Day 1?



Anyway, back to my lack of learning about this parenting gig.

I regret not treasuring enough the moments the big kids spent with me when they were small. The hugs and kisses, the sitting on the lap, the slow, easy intimacy that does pull back when they are teens. I didn't notice when it stopped, but all of a sudden I realized, that was over.

Now for the present. My eldest came to my room last night while my husband and I were watching a show on our computer. He wanted to use my iPhone for facebook, so he stretched out on our bed, and facebooked for a few minutes. Then he just stayed there, and was quiet. The 14 year old daughter came in, and I told her it was bed time, as tomorrow is the first day of school for them (I'll post of that later!). As a matter of fact, all the teens should be getting to bed, so we get the school year off to a good start. Daughter hugs, kisses, departs, son stays put.

I reiterated it was bed time, and he got up and went to bed.

Later I realized, he is 17 years old. He doesn't really need to go to bed at 10:30, and he was content just being with my husband and I, snuggled in, really (as much as a 17 year old can snuggle in), and I sent him away because why? Because I wanted him to do as I said, respect my authority, and have order to our days. Not a bad thing.

But how many more times will he want to "snuggle in" with us? Maybe never. I sent him off on "principle", and once again failed to appreciate that short time, the quiet, ordinary moments, that we as parents are blessed with.

This struggle has been long for me. Responsibility, duty, order, structure, versus delightful, free, unscheduled and unplanned play time.

Any way, before I faded to sleep last night, I did appreciate my son's obedience, but regretted, again, my lack of appreciation for the desire of my children to just be with me. Just be.

May God grant me another opportunity to just be with my son, and let me recognize it and treasure it. Amen.

(photo of my son, goofing off on the trampoline. Photo taken by a friend of his, as he would never be so animated with me behind the lense)


Blogger Hope said...

I did so much parenting 'on principle' too. The good news it's not the end of the story. I changed. My kids may be grown but I changed and they see it. That gives them hope for their own selves. That who they are today is not the end of the story either. And not that who we are at any given time is bad, or wrong or negative. It just is.

August 18, 2010  
Blogger owenswain said...

Doing the best we can we commit all things to God who is able to work it out (whether we see it now or even ever). We entrust our accomplishments and our failings to Him who is able to make something from nothing. God bless and keep you and your family.

August 18, 2010  
Blogger Kate Wicker said...

This is a beautiful reminder. Thank you. I've been feeling exhausted, burned out, and discouraged as a mom to little ones. But I don't want to suffer pangs of regret later on. This post was just what I needed to read today.

God bless.

August 18, 2010  
Blogger Renee said...

Hope ~ your constant encouragement that my parenting story is not over is so very, very helpful. Thank you.

Owen ~ What words of hope for me! Thank you for blessing me with your kindness, and for speaking a truth I often forget.

Kate ~ I am glad you found this helpful. I am afraid, though, that every mother has tinges of regret as her children grow away, up, and out. I am afraid there is no way to avoid a sadness that they are getting bigger. All I can offer is that every moment is precious, and that doesn't end when the baby fat goes away! Thanks for stopping by, and know that you are doing good, hard, brave, and loving work!!

August 18, 2010  
Anonymous Kelly said...

This is very beautiful.

Order is important, and you don't get it without endless repetition. Knowing when to let it slide is a tough one.

I need to remember that there will be a last snuggle, a last fort, a last request for a read aloud, a last poopy diaper.

August 18, 2010  
Blogger Renee said...

Kelly ~ the worst part about "lasts" is you rarely know when they are. So savor each one, if possible. Ha, who am I kidding. That isn't possible, but keep the long view that it is all good in the end.

August 18, 2010  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Amen, sister! This post could easily have been written by me. I, too, look back on the days when my older children were toddlers and wish I had known then what I know now. My grandmother always said, "You can't put an old head on young shoulders," but I sure wish I'd had the wisdom to know how quickly they'd grow, and that I'd find myself looking at their photos one day wishing I could pull their little toddler selves out of them and give them another hug. I'm home schooling my 13 year old now, and hopefully I've finally learned. Thank you for the reminder as the new school year begins. God bless.

August 18, 2010  
Blogger Pam Barnhill said...

Thank you. I am not a "young mom" but my children are young. I am going to take this one to heart. I may even take it and post it on my bathroom mirror. God bless.

August 18, 2010  
Blogger Renee said...

Thanks for visiting, Pam. God bless you, too.

August 18, 2010  
Blogger Renee said...

Oh, Hi Lisa! Thanks for stopping by. I think I am starting to realize that in another 10 years, I'll look back on NOW, and wish I would have appreciated it more. So I am.

August 18, 2010  
Anonymous heidi said...

Once again, Renee, you hit it on the nail. I'm feeling the same way. I'm trying to really enjoy my toddlers now because I see my teens pulling away. In some ways, that is. No more goodnight hugs from my two oldest boys. Andrew's been like that for a while and I think I'm used to it now, but Nick just started and I got hurt all over again! So, I'm going to enjoy the hugs of the other three boys before they, too, get too big to give their old mom a hug.

Thanks for posting your wisdom. It always encourages me!

August 19, 2010  
Blogger Mother Mayhem said...

I blinked and Sweetums was 14.

August 23, 2010  

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