stages, confidence and perspective.
NOTE: I haven’t blogged much in a while. I have been too caught up in trying to “live in the moment.” But often living in the moment gets confused with simply being in the moment. And sometimes living really means seeing how far you’ve come and being okay with it. I’m doing better. I’ll write more.
We all get Instagram envy. Friends of friends post pictures of their kids, always the same age as our own, doing things we wish our kids would do. They eat broccoli and carrots, sleep through the night and spell their own name. Their parents are cooking edamame and elk chili, going on seemingly-tearless vacations and watching real, grown-up movies every night.
I don’t get jealous. Well, not exactly. I get confused. Where did we go wrong as parents? Why not us? Why not our kids?
A few weeks ago, we registered Kaeden for two-week swim lessons. We hyped it up for a few days hoping he would, apparently overnight, lose his fear of being in the water without holding onto someone. On the first night of swim lessons, he was excited, maybe even escatic. We pulled in and he said “Mommy, Daddy, I’m gonna swim.” A few minutes pass, the class starts and he’s sitting squarely on our laps. Watching the other kids swim. Holding his floaties.
Nothing. Not a toe in the water. Twenty-six minutes later, we are on our way home. Tan and dry.
We leave and he tells us that he’s “super duper” sorry and that tomorrow he’ll get in the water. We talk about consequences and candy, treats and incentives. He says the other kids are just bigger than him and that he won’t be bad again.
For the next two weeks, he eases into the water. He learns the doggie paddle and the elementary backstroke. He wears his floaties. He goes down the slide. Again. And again.
Weeks later, he rides his first kiddie roller coaster. He starts to eat better. He goes to sleep without one of us being there and he plays by himself quietly.
I don’t know exactly why it happened but something clicked. Our son, the same child who played an entire season of YMCA soccer holding my hand, found a piece of something he needed.
The confidence to realize he could do it. The confidence to lessen his fears, ease our burdens and well, it did something else. Something else entirely that I didn’t even think about. He moved on to a new stage of life.
And as he continues to grow up, his sister is doing the same thing.
She has crossed the line from being a baby to being a child. She finds that crawling seems more fun than sitting. Table food trumps jarred baby food and the days of formula and constant bottle washing are numbered.
Parenting is, among many things, about stages. Getting from one stage to another without too many bruises, tears or shots of whiskey.
I used to be just a guy.
Then a husband.
Then a dad.
Then a dad of two.
Those are all stages no one prepares you for. Then those two little ones start to grow up. And they eat broccoli and learn to crawl. They realize they have a pee-pee and that their sister doesn’t. This just happened.
I never prepared for this. We never talked about what this might look like. I read everything I could about kale and potty training, thrush and vaccinations. But not how to manage our own feelings, our own emotions, how to cope when our kids start to grow up and find their intoxicating independence. All while we still reminisce at night over grainy iPhone videos of their first breath.
I am still figuring out how to be a father, one day at a time, one mistake at a time. Sometimes I feel like if I start crying I won’t ever stop. Sometimes I’m just so grateful we get to do this thing called family together. Sometimes I want so badly to protect them from stages that I know can cause heartache and emotions.
And as our kids grow up and find out they are the main character in their own story, I think I’m starting to find something that I need. Something that tells me I’m okay to be the parent of a four-year-old preschooler and nine-month toddler.
I don’t stay awake paralyzed by the fear of schedules, the what-ifs and the hope of “maybe one day.” Instead I am excited by the next stages, whatever that might look like and the equal parts joy and trouble it can bring.