Parenting is hard. Full stop.
There is no parenting hack or trick that can alleviate the tiredness, constant needs, continuous cleaning, or bottomless snack pit-stomachs.
The day to day demand of a parent is like no other challenge I have experienced in life. And I'm not even the stay-at-home parent!
With each month, week, or even day, it seems there are new challenges brought to the surface. Children cycle through phases as they learn and grow. Some welcomed and exciting, others more difficult.
In the midst of the struggle, it's easy to get caught up in thoughts of:
"I'll be happy when he sleeps through the night."
"I just need school to start again soon!"
"I can't wait until. . ."
Today I challenge you to resist the thoughts of accelerating time.
Bitter Moments, Sweet Memories
The first thing I want to mention here is, when in moments of struggle, frustration, or exhaustion, the last thing a parent wants to hear is, "Oh you're going to miss this, try to enjoy it."
No. You're not going to miss it.
You won't miss waking up to a crying baby.
You won't miss cooking dinner only for it to be thrown on the floor.
You won't miss being 2 minutes from home for your toddler to finally fall asleep, not transfer, and now won't take a nap at all.
These moments are bitter.
These are not the moments you wish to remember when thinking back on your children growing up.
While the words "you're going to miss this, try to enjoy it" are said with sincerity, they are not easily received in these present times.
However, what will be remembered are the sweet memories within the bitter moments.
You won't miss waking up to a crying baby.
But you will miss holding him close, consoling him, and rocking him back to sleep.
His little body sprawled across your chest, arms hanging down on either side with the heat of his head radiating on your cheek. The closeness, warmth, and connection created during those dark, sleepless nights will forever be remembered.
You won't miss cooking dinner for it to be thrown on the floor.
But you will miss the innocence of a face (and body) covered in spaghetti sauce. Ignoring the fork and diving in with the best utensils God could make, then smiling all the way to the bath.
You won't miss them falling asleep in the car because it will ruin their nap at home.
But you will miss quietly unbuckling them from their car seat. Gently sliding one arm out, then the other. Holding them close as you attempt to transfer them to their bed. As they grow, the challenge becomes greater, but you also recognize the days of holding them are limited.
Plenty moments of parenting are tough. But I challenge you to unfold these moments and aim to identify the sweet memories that lie within.
In parenting, and life in general, being intentional with your mindset prior to taking on a task is important.
Simply knowing there are sweet memory nuggets in the midst of bitter moments allows us to shift our mindsets prior to the moment.
Waking up to a crying baby is not fun.
Waking up to a crying baby with the mindset that you were hoping to sleep through the night and this child is now an inconvenience, is really not fun.
Waking up to a crying baby, knowing first their pure innocence, but also that it could be the last time you get to snuggle them back to sleep, is potentially a sweet memory.
Cultivate a mindset that seeks joy in the struggle.
Intentionally look for the sweet in the bitter. Believe me, you will find it.
Of course, this is easier said than done.
It will not happen every time your child cries at night, throws dinner on the floor, or doesn't nap.
But one day, you will notice the sweet memory is gone when you wake up in the morning having slept the entire night for the first time in months, they use a fork and no longer require a bath after pasta night, or they are too big to carry.
As with most articles, I write these words as reminders to myself.
Luckily, I haven't yet crossed the threshold for that last one. But I know we aren't far. At this point, I will take any and every opportunity to carry my boy.
Also, last night was spaghetti night…And while I tried to teach our 2 year-old how to spin the fork, he preferred his well accustomed hands.
Straight to the bath we went.
All 3 boys in the tub together. What a sweet memory it was.
Time's Fleeting Nature
Will I sleep more once my 3 month old stops waking up in the night, yes.
Will dinner clean-up get easier as my 2 year old gets better at using a fork, of course.
Will I be able to sit quietly in the evening when my 5 year old can read to himself, yes.
While it's natural to think in this manner and wish for the next milestone or stage, it's crucial to remember that time is continually passing. Childhood is fleeting. They continually change before your eyes. As cliché as it is, if you are a parent, you know it to be true: "They grow up so fast!"
We may dream of a diaper-free household or a peaceful dinner. Just one. One please…
But once this phase passes, what about the next one? And the next?
Parenting is a continual string of challenges.
Don't wish to accelerate time. It is already moving fast enough.
Look for and remind yourself of the current joys in the here and now.
I promise you, they are ever present.
Be Present. Be Intentional.
- Chad Vrla
If you would like to support The Intentional Father's Mission, we have recently released a few items specifically designed for fathers as continuous reminders to Be Present and Intentional in their children's lives.