Growing Independence

Our house is back to normal after the Christmas decorations and mess. I love the festive decorations – how the whole house transforms as we anticipate Christmas. And, while I know we should be celebrating Epiphany and the excitement of the kings, I am ready for quiet and rest as we ease into January. (Though, we do leave our outside lights up until after Epiphany. I guess we have to ease into rest…)

unnamedThis new year starts a bit of a new phase for us. Bea is in swim lessons two mornings a week and dance class once a week. And while that isn’t busy at all compared with some families, for us, this is a lot of structure. I view it as easing into the preschool routine. (Speaking of, we visit our top choice next week – where does the time go?!)

I was talking with a friend about this transition to more. She has a daughter who is a year older than Bea, so I get to use her experiences as a glimpse into our future. We were talking about how, as school takes over and the family schedule shifts from playdates to a more structured routine, it seems natural for the family to turn inward. Perhaps it’s a survival thing – the need to remember our core.

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Not to be left behind, Elle is rolling all over the place!

It can feel easy to want to keep up with everyone else: To put Bea in as many activities as possible to help her be well rounded. Or to swing to the other extreme and put her in nothing, as we cherish this finite period of life with few expectations. Once school starts, that’s it. You’re in it for the next 20 years.

While I certainly don’t want to rush anything, I’m excited about this next phase. Even in our two little classes, it’s neat to see Bea taking what we’ve instilled at home and transferring it to a setting on her own. She is able to make choices without me and it’s so cool watching her make good ones.

It makes me proud to watch her become more and more her own person and, as bittersweet as the start of preschool seems, I’m looking forward to this next phase and a time of giving her more independence.

What changes are happening in your life now? If you’re a parent, how do you feel about the release of responsibility to your kids? Is there a phase you loved best?

Like an Onion

What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one….

Because they way you grow old is kind of like an onion or the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That’s how being eleven years old is.

Sandra Cisneros
Eleven
Woman Hollering Creek

This passage from Sandra Cisneros has been on my mind lately. Especially with the September 15 tax deadline craziness and the October 15 deadline looming, Bea and I have had a lot of unbuffered interactions lately. We are alike in many ways – passionate, opinionated, thoughtful – which can lead to much of our conflict. (A glimpse into the teenage years…?) When Frank isn’t around, we often push each other’s buttons and I stoop to the level of a three year old more often than I’d like to admit.

And, when Bea’s throwing a fit and I just want her to act older, I need to remember that she’s not just three – she’s two and one and trying to process life. As a thirty-three year old, I need to model that process and show her how we react, rather than getting sucked into the drama.

Dress up (Right before things got crazy...)
Dress up (Right before things got crazy…)

I think it’s also been hard having a sweet, cooing newborn. Our comparisons to Bea are probably unfair – I go from holding an 8 pound, snuggly baby to a 30 pound whirlwind of a preschooler. We go from baby mew-cries to 3-year-old shrieks. It’s hard to make that instant shift to gracious parenting.

But, how often do I expect others to make that instant shift for me? On those days when I am feeling like a five-year-old, just figuring out routines and structure or the times when I’ve got the attitude of a tween. I need grace for myself in those moments – to recognize all the years that make me who I am – and grace for others in their moments.

We have friends with an almost-one-year-old and we were gushing about our favorite time as parents – that 6-months to two-and-a-half years range when kids are full of brand-new discoveries, from walking to talking to simply exploring the world. Our friends laughed and asked if it’s all downhill after three.

It’s not, but it’s different. The discoveries are more social skills and behaviors and life is more about figuring out opinions and autonomy. It’s fun but challenging and exhausting and the weight of parenting really hits me.

And so, as we figure out this social world and help Bea become a functioning, gracious, strong human being, I try to stop and remember all those moments that lead up to this point. The discoveries of 4 months and the amazement of 2 years and the strength of 3. As we navigate this new season, I can’t forget all the seasons that got us here.

What age do you feel today? Parents of older kids, what was your favorite age?

Nothing

“When you are waiting you are not doing nothing. You’re doing something. You’re allowing your soul to grow up. If you can’t be still and wait, you can’t become what God created you to be.”

Sue Monk Kidd

When I first read this quote, in my early-twenties, I thought about waiting and how intentional I had to be to allow my “soul to grow up.” Now, more of a grownup in my early-thirties, I read this quote with much more excitement and anticipation.

In the midst of being a grownup, I still struggle with waiting and being content in waiting. But, I also have enough hindsight to be amazed with what a gift waiting can be. When I allow myself to wait, I see experiences, relationships, and opportunities arise that I would have never imagined. When I allow myself to wait, I am able to see the process and appreciate the time it takes for those unexpected gifts. When I allow myself to wait, I realize that things happen I never would have risked or dreamed of on my own.

Whenever I feel discontentment, discouragement, or fear of the unknown creep in, I need to remember to intentionally wait and be present in this moment of waiting.

Are you waiting for something?

Linked with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.