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)