Going through the changing seasons of family life
"Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?"
It was one of those perfect mornings. I was out for a run with my favorite four-legged buddy, reveling in the crisp Lowcountry air underneath a sky streaked with pink and gold sunrise glory that feels like God is smiling down, listening to Stevie Nicks pose this poignant question.
I'm not sure if it's the physical exertion that gets my brain firing, or just the serene lack of interruption, but I seem to get my best thinking done when I run, and today was no exception.
Some dear friends of the family welcomed their first child into the world recently, and this song, contemplating life and the uncertainty of the journey, got me to thinking about what lies ahead for them, and what has already passed for me.
I found myself flashing back to the births of my two children, so excited and yet secretly a little scared at the same time, welcoming in an unknown entity that would change everything about my life as I knew it. Fears unfounded ... now, 10 years later, I can't imagine my life without those little (actually not so little) people.
It is so sweet, and bittersweet, to look back at that period as a new parent, holding your first child in your arms. The complete utter love, joy and wonderment, coupled now with a new ferocious instinct to protect, and the unspoken worry that something bad could happen someday, worry that only comes with loving something more than yourself.
And then comes crawling, walking, potty training, countless birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese, eating bugs and dirt, dressing up like Optimus Prime and Minnie Mouse, knocking out teeth and getting bubble gum stuck in the hair. ... And then, suddenly, a decade has passed. The time between holding my son like a football in one arm to having him grow to within 5 inches of me, from kissing my baby girl's toes to taking her to get her ears pierced, seems to have passed by in a day.
"Well, I've been afraid of changing 'cause I've built my life around you. But time makes you bolder, even children get older, and I'm getting older, too."
I read years ago a quote that said something to the effect of "your children are only on loan to you." Meaning, give them all that they need but don't sacrifice yourself and your own interests and goals in the process.
I fervently agreed and pursued my own interests but not, I felt, at the expense of my kids. But still, looking back, mom-guilt creeps in.
Did I make the most of the past 10 years? I'll be their mother for a lifetime, but the blip that they are at home with me, the chance I have to guide, encourage, discipline and hug and kiss them everyday is just a season in the calendar of my life.
The time kids are on loan to us may seem endless when they are fresh newborn babies with magic-smelling heads, and it can't seem to go fast enough when they are 2 years old throwing a tantrum in Target. But truth is, it will be over before we know it. My friends are just starting; I'm nearly halfway done.
And so, I have made a promise to myself. I will look at my children every day, really look and appreciate my blessings. I will focus more on the kisses and hugs, and less on nagging about the things that drive me crazy: the shoes constantly left in the middle of the floor, the globs of toothpaste in the sink. To these things that drive me crazy, I shall be grateful for you.
Don't get me wrong, I will continue to preach about personal responsibility (to selectively deaf ears), but I also will deeply appreciate. Because soon enough, the childhood ship will sail. The shoes won't be in the middle of the floor, they will be away at college; the rooms will stay picked up and I will enter a into a new season of my life. And that is OK.
Michelle Thompson is a children's book author, freelance writer and entrepreneur. Her first book "Charlie the Tree" was released in 2012 and she is developing a new children's book series and an original screenplay. She lives in Mount Pleasant with her husband and two children.