Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Best Years


Whenever we have a family outing that includes all four children, we get a lot of comments, especially from the elderly. One such time, we were eating lunch at a buffet restaurant, and an elderly gentleman came over and asked the ages of our children. We told him that the oldest was 4-1/2, then 3, then just over 1, then the new baby, who was 2 months at the time. He smiled and said, "Enjoy this age. It's the best time and it doesn't last very long."

On many occasions, when I hear something similar, I am usually in the midst of a moment of stress with the boys running wild and the baby crying, and I feel like it's all I can do not to run screaming down the street. This happened to be one of those days. Although they were well-behaved during lunch, it had been a hectic morning, and I was ready to call it quits. When this old man, whom I am sure meant well, said this, I just wanted to burst into tears, screaming, "You mean it gets WORSE than this???"

But at the same time, I fully understand and appreciate what the old man was talking about. They are only little and innocent like this for a few short years and we need to enjoy them. Enjoy the smiles, the kisses, the laughter, the pitter-patter of little feet running into the kitchen for breakfast, the sheer excitement of seeing a ladybug or being able to play with cars. As slowly as each day seems to pass for me, I also notice that time is flying by. My oldest will start kindergarten in a few months, and though I am looking forward to this transition, I can't help but feel that these fleeting free days of childhood will be behind him. Although his childhood isn't over, from August of this year on, he will be strapped with homework and a more structured schedule than these preschool and toddler years have given him.

And yet, as much as I am trying to cherish these tender moments, I also feel so guilty that I don't enjoy them more, that there are times when I want to hide under my pillow and cry because I don't want to face the day, that there are days when I wish I could rewind my life to the time before I had kids. Every time I feel like that, I also feel guilty for feeling like that. I know I need to enjoy them while they are young because it doesn't last very long, but sometimes (the potty training, the night waking, the constant fighting, etc.) I really just don't enjoy them.


4 comments:

Adam F said...

It seems to me that forcing myself to enjoy something out of the recognition that it is fundamentally a good thing generally brings either guilt or remorse. Rest assured you are not alone when you feel what you do under stress.

In your eyes, it sounds like you see yourself falling short of so many things--but to those who perhaps know these less-than happy thoughts you have when stressed, your life is a monument to a most tremendous accomplishment: self-control and sacrifice for another. Thousands of years ago another person exerted an infinite amount of self-control in sacrificing for many, many others.

Keep moving forward! Sure, we should cherish the moments right now where we can, keyword being can. To the degree that we can acknowledge our faults, strive to repair them, and forgive ourselves for them, we will have peace and hope in our lives.

It seems to me as well that the purpose is not so much to cherish every moment as if it were our last (though President Hinckley advised us to enjoy the occasional beautiful vista life's train ride will provide) but to look, even press forward in faith towards what we and those around us are striving to become.

You are wonderful Jenna! Keep it up!

swedemom said...

I honestly did not love every minute of motherhood when all my kids were at home. It was hard, I never felt like I accomplished anything, etc. When my kids started to go to school, my life and enjoyment of motherhood improved immensely. I enjoy things even more as my children grow because they aren't so difficult.

Don't feel guilty. What you are doing is HARD work-the hardest work a woman ever does. And you are sleep deprived on top of that. I just wish I could lend you a hand.

Allison said...

I'm going to agree with swedemom. Life during the first few years of a child's life is really hard (for everyone involved). However, don't give up hope just yet. I know that it feels like this time will never end, but I'm sure that things are going to improve with your oldest going to school this year, and before you know it, you will have 2 in school. And things become MUCH easier!! As you are feeling the burden of the school years, remember, sometimes you are able to make more out of the time together when you have some time apart during the day. I know I appreciate the time with my kids much more now that I only have one at home all day. (And by the way, I don't think that the ages of just over 1 and 2 months are the best ages for enjoying. Particularly together.) So, maybe the key is to just get through the next year without beating yourself up about whether or not you are "enjoying" life, remembering that to everything there is a season. The seasons change, and even though Winter can be very dark and cold (especially if you live as North as we do), Spring eventually arrives. And things that you were wishing you would be able to do all winter long, are suddenly possible (like actually spending time outside in the sun). But it doesn't help the winter go by any quicker by staring out the window wishing that it wasn't dark at 4:30 in the afternoon. Boy, can you tell I'm really happy Spring is finally here??

royalbird said...

I do agree that I will probably enjoy the kids more when I'm not with them 24-7. But I also don't want to look back at this time and wonder why I was always so stressed out and why I didn't enjoy them more. So I am trying to enjoy them as much as possible. I just need to quit the guilt trip, I guess. Thanks for all your comments. It's nice to feel like I'm not the only one who struggles with these things.

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