***Updated March 2019 from original publishing date of January 2015.
“Enjoy them now, they grow up so fast.” Any of us with young children have heard this statement countless times from well meaning relatives and strangers. At the moment, while we are pulling our hair out chasing our children around, the advice is hard to swallow. But, from someone in her 20th year of parenting, believe me it is so true. I want to encourage you that every season with your children is precious.
I look back on the times I had with young children with joy and happiness. I think, “Life was so uncomplicated then.” I knew their needs and I fulfilled them. They were simple things like sleep, food, and love. I would hold them, read to them and cook for them. That was my life ten-fifteen years ago.
These are some of my favorite photos from when my kids were young. Were they ever really this little??
Some days I miss those years. Some days I watch young moms as they cope with the stress of taking care of young children — carrying the baby in the midst of multiple other tasks, chasing the toddler, juggling three children under five — and I remember when that used to be me and I feel a tug on my heart. As hard as those years were; they were also sweet. Those children needed me for everything and they loved me unconditionally. They could be wild and unruly. This is true. But they were also just amazing to watch. The innocence that surrounds little children as they play is beautiful.
In retrospect, I do miss those years. However, in reality, I do not. When I really think back I remember that those were hard years. Four children under the age of five can be very demanding. The physical abuse one endures – day in and day out – is exhausting. In addition, I had no freedom. Taking them anywhere was a chore: buckling the car seats, driving to the destination, unbuckling and getting everyone out, just to put everyone back in two minutes later. A five minute stop takes 30. And if I ever wanted a shower, I had to plan ahead and make sure everyone was in there designated spot to ensure chaos didn’t rain down during the 10 minutes I was out of sight.
Fast forward ten years. I have two teenage boys, two daughters on the brink of teen-dom, and two more who were still “little”. I have days when my children are teaching me; when I have to ask them how to do things. My oldest has surpassed me in understanding of mathematics and science. My daughter can ask to make cookies and I can allow her to do the entire process on her own — start to finish. If I need to go to the grocery store, it is no longer a major feat. I am no longer Mother Duck with my six ducklings following behind. I can ask my “olders” to please watch the “youngers” and feel confident that everything will be ok. The shopping gets done twice as fast when I’m not having to chase and reprimand children all the time.
Now my oldest is in college and my second is graduating high school. My youngest is 10. Life is different now. We have different needs and different wants. Things are not so simple like they once were. I’m not always able to provide for the varying needs of my children as they have become more complicated (and expensive). They are learning more about the world and about themselves, and sometimes this means they argue with each other — especially as my two “born leaders” learn the right and wrong way to lead! I do not always have a clear answer on who was “right” and who was “wrong.” I have to get on my knees and seek God daily for the wisdom to respond to them correctly.
I still remember the first moment I realized the joy of growing children. All of us, the four oldest and me, were in the kitchen. I was mixing a meatloaf, Abigail was peeling potatoes, Hadassah was chopping them, and the boys were making biscuits. As I looked around my kitchen at each child as we worked together on the project, I felt my joy overflowing. Those kids who used to claw at me to fulfill their needs at all hours of the day were now helping me. We were having fun together, singing songs as we worked. It was a good time. Just so you know, an every day occurrence. The kids had asked me to make meatloaf and mashed potatoes and I didn’t have time to put it all together myself. I told them they would only get it if they worked with me and helped get it together. Looking back on it, I have realized the amazing reality that they were capable of helping me. It was a moment I treasure in my heart.
I can look back on my time with young children and enjoy the sweet memories. But we are making new memories now. And these are just as sweet.