3 Things I Miss About Parenting Young Kids
Many years ago, I had two kids under two, a house full of diapers and toys, and bags under my eyes the size of New Jersey. I was chronically overwhelmed and underappreciated, and all I wanted was my little men to put on their own dang shoes and give me a little room to breathe. My life felt suffocating. I needed sleep, and a little time to myself, and the freedom to run to Target in the middle of the afternoon instead of being stuck at home for nap time. If only these boys would get a little older, my life would be so much easier…or so I thought…
But now my oldest is off to college, my youngest is finishing high school, and if one of my kids asked me to snuggle him and read him a book before bedtime I would literally die of joy. Well, the shock might actually kill me first, but I would die super happy, I promise you.
Parenting is much easier now. I don’t need to pack a bag of contingency snacks and diapers just to run to the grocery store, and my back doesn’t constantly ache from bath-time marathons and toddler temper-tantrum wrestling matches. I can sleep through the night and I get to eat my meals while they are hot. I am living the dream!
Except that I miss some elements of that season. And if you are living in the middle of that beautiful mess, there’s a chance that you might miss some of the unexpected blessings that come with it. So I thought I would share a few things that I was surprised to find myself missing in hopes of helping you younger mamas to savor the blessings that this season affords. And I would love to hear from you moms of older kids what you would add to this list!
1. I miss the comradery and time with fellow moms. I know some of you are thinking, Are you nuts? Being a stay-at-home mom of ‘littles’ is pretty much the loneliest job ever! I can go all day and never speak to another adult! I know. I get it. And you’re right, being a stay-at-home mom of small children can be super lonely. But so can being a mom of teenagers. In fact, as they age, you have less and less chances to hang out with other parents. School field trips and assemblies are no more; they drive themselves to dance class or soccer practice so you no longer sit through those with another mom or two; and even church events involve you less and less. And let’s face it, you are no longer meeting moms at the playground and comparing notes on whose kid was the most nightmarish toilet trainer.
The point is that all of this independence is perfectly healthy, but it results in leaving you out in the cold. If you are not careful, that glorious season of your kids putting on their own shoes and cutting up their own food can leave you really, really lonely. Just as it takes intentional effort to maintain relationships when your kids are little, you will need to be super intentional about maintaining your relationships when they are older. It will not get magically easier, and in many ways it will actually be harder to connect with others. Savor your current opportunities to connect with other moms.
2. I miss the opportunities to be creative that parenting young ones brought me. I am not naturally a super creative person in the traditional sense of the word. I can barely operate a glue gun and I mostly wear solid colors because I am terrible at pulling together a stylish outfit. I figure solid colors minimizes my potential for clashing. Anyway, the point is that I do not tend to naturally orchestrate creative outlets for myself. But raising little ones demands that a mama get in touch with her creative side.
Suddenly you find yourself with bins of play-dough, scores of stumpy crayons, and a collection of stickers that can rival a pediatrician's office. Overnight you are a curator of creative supplies and a producer of handprint reindeers and glitter-bombed projects. All of that creativity means mess, and for some of us, “mess” is a four-letter word. (I know, I know, it’s four letters as it is. But you get what I mean.)
Sometimes it is hard to savor all that mess and appreciate that dried play-dough that you just found pressed into your favorite jeans. Savor it anyway. Your little Picasso is going to grow up and get busy with homework and friends and part-time jobs and you will find yourself missing those opportunities to be creative. To express yourself just for the fun of it is a delightful practice and one that mothering young ones generously affords you. Enjoy it. And begin thinking about how you will connect with your inner artist when they are older and you are on your own.
3. I miss their unadulterated enthusiasm. Young children have no filter. Which means they will likely humiliate you with inappropriate questions and comments at all the wrong times. They’ll gasp and exclaim, “Mommy said a bad word!” just as the pastor walks up (the bad word was ‘stupid’). They’ll ask, “Mommy, why is your butt so big?” in front of a line of people at the grocery store. There will be times that you desperately wish they had a filter (or that a hole in the floor would swallow you alive), but there will come a time that will you miss that sweet little unfiltered voice. Because that lack of filter also works to your advantage.
Young kids don’t filter their enthusiasm for gorillas at the zoo, birthday parties, or their favorite socks fresh out of the laundry. They will giggle with glee when you make their favorite cookies or make that funny face that they love. And all of that enthusiasm is contagious. It makes you smile, lifts your spirits, and reminds you that not only should you not sweat the small stuff, but you should enjoy the small stuff. Their enthusiasm will spark joy in you. Teenagers bring a lot to the table, but unfiltered enthusiasm is generally not one of those things. Savor this season of unfiltered enthusiasm and inappropriate questions. It’s a gift that you cannot unwrap later. You have to enjoy it now.
There are other things I miss from that season of raising young kids: snuggles, books that rhyme, and dinners that actually have leftovers, but these are a few that have surprised me along the way.
What would you add to the list?