I’ve always stood firmly in the direction of the future. Since I was a child, it was always about what’s next. I rarely, if ever, lamented about the past. I’ve carried that same attitude over into my adult and parenting phases of life.
While many of my closest friends shed tears with their children’s firsts and lasts, I’ve always been more eager to see what comes next, rather than sad for a milestone to pass or something else to come to an end.
This is not to say I don’t appreciate each phase. I loved cuddling babies. I adored toddler tongued phrases. And school aged children have been an adventure in personalities, interests, and family dynamics. Every parent is going to have a phase or stage, which for them, was somehow better, or magical in some inexplainable way. And if someone says, “It’s all wonderful,” don’t trust them. It’s not. It’s all different. It’s all hard in some way, and it’s all worth it…but it’s not all wonderful. We are bound to have parts—phases, we like better than others.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I like my twelve-year-old SO. MUCH. BETTER than I liked any of my two-year-olds, two-month-olds…etc. Small children are special. They are cute. I’ve decided that is for their own protection. Often soft, and cuddly, they become endearing. They are also dependent, needy, volatile, messy, whiney, and impossible with which to reason.
My twelve-year-old could hands-down clean up at an eye-rolling tournament. Just hand her the trophy now. Her stomping fits could rival a herd of elephants. She leaves dirty dishes in her bedroom—dishes that aren’t allowed out of the kitchen. She snaps at her sister, manipulates her brother, and often changes moods faster than the Wyoming weather. All this considered, she is still in a phase I’ve decided I like far better than any other thus far.
Her emerging understanding of the world as it applies to her likes, dislikes, personality preferences, and unique perspective is, to me, fascinating. She is so many things—kind, humble, quietly confident, funny, intelligent, caring, introspective, artistic, sensitive, stubborn, dramatic, stoic, loyal, strong willed…to name some of the many descriptors that come to mind.
Now—in this phase, between us, there is so much more depth and interaction, more intrigue and discussion, more interest, and a desire to know one another beyond needing. We aren’t friends, in the traditional sense. This is why I’m careful not to say I like her, as I would say about a peer. I like being with her. Moreover, I like learning about her—who she is becoming. I don’t always like her (see eye-rolling paragraph) and she doesn’t’ always like me (I am her mother, after all)—but our relationship now, as opposed to when she was younger, is so much…more.
What a gift that has been.
I’ve never had much love lost on children in the toddler stages of life. And while I love the smell and feel of a warm baby, I don’t necessarily miss that particular brand of parental exhaustion. No, I think the parenting magical moment for me might be happening right now.
God willing, there is more time. But beyond this current stretch of road there is further independence and less time together—she will earn her driver’s license, friends will become a higher ranked priority, romantic relationships will ensue, and a whole world outside of our small town and our intimate family unit will open up to her.
And when I think of that…our frequent car rides to volleyball tournaments, weekly couch dates with Adam Lavine and Blake Shelton, nightly kitchen dance parties, and awkward, yet necessary, discussions about life’s good, bad, and ugly—when I realize those days are potentially numbered…
I find myself shifting my weight.
For the first time (and I’m guessing, not the last), I feel my mind casting back and a tightness gathering in my chest. My feet, forever sternly facing the future, grind against the sand under my soles, and push my body in the opposite direction—reflecting back, to what is quickly becoming the past.
When this phase comes to pass, I might just need a shoulder to cry on.
Well, friends, there are firsts…and lasts…for everything.