Why I’m Not Going to Tell You to ‘Enjoy the Little Years’

I’m not going to tell you to enjoy the little years because they pass so quickly. This is true. But it will not help you today when your toddler wails during lunchtime because you made the wrong shaped pasta. {My sister-in-law has three young boys and her Facebook page keeps me apprised of the latest trends in toddler rebellion.}

I will not tell you to seize the day and cherish all the things. Because you just can’t right now. You are living with tiny tyrants and they make daily life both hilarious and impossible. They wake up at night when the rest of the sane world is sleeping. They refuse to take naps when rest is exactly what they need. They think 4 am is a reasonable start time. They embarrass you in Target. Their volume control is very much in development. They shove peanuts up their nose because they have no sense.

We’ve been watching home movies lately from my big kids’ little years. This has wrecked me emotionally as I am terribly sentimental / wish I could go back in time and do it ALL differently. I can’t. But if I could, these are the pearls of wisdom I would go back and tell myself.

1. Your children are at the climax of cuteness right now.

Kiss them constantly and take videos that you won’t have to delete from your phone because the storage is full. Drag out the 2001 Sony Handy Cam and capture 20 glorious minutes of his third birthday. One day they will lose their chubby cheeks and baby teeth and silken toddler hair spun by angels. Their munchkin voice will not always be so munchkin-like.

Image courtesy of Marian Vischer

Even these big kids of mine are grieving the loss of their own little years. “I loved being that age! I want to go back!”

Since watching the movies, my 6th-grade son keeps telling us he wishes we weren’t too old to have another kid, a statement that feels both precious and insulting.

My teenage daughter is all, “Mom! We were the cutest kids ever! We should have been models!” And I’m all, “You WERE the cutest kids ever! Why was I always frustrated? How could any mom be stressed when her kids are that adorable?”

Their right-now toddler cuteness is not just protection that keeps loving but exasperated parents from committing violent crimes; it will be a later-on reminder {when you’re watching home movies / weeping} that parenting is a privilege, that is goes by too dang fast, and that you really are #blessed.

The flashbacks to the cuteness of their little years has helped me see them differently this week, adolescent awkwardness and all. I’m reminded that even though they can take their own showers and fix their own food {glory!}, they are still needy and vulnerable. My job is far from done. One day I’ll look back on right now with the same thoughts — they are young and precious; simply try to enjoy them, glorious mess and all.

2. Laugh.

Babies and little kids are professional comedians. Their antics and ridiculous are effortless. Take every opportunity to see the humor in it all. If we can’t laugh, we’re missing out on comedy day every day. If your toddler is so not making you laugh right now, remind yourself that little kids are pretty much like tiny drunk adults. Or read the Honest Toddler whose Twitter feed should be required reading for any stressed-out parent of a little kid.

3. Their weird attachment won’t last forever.

My oldest son went through a phase where he slept with a desk chair in his bunk bed. A DESK CHAIR. There is no rational explanation. For some reason, I chose to fight this battle until I realized that the chair wasn’t a real problem; it was simply a strange thing to want in one’s bed.

Ask yourself these three questions: Is it hurting anyone? Is it a threat to someone’s sanity? Is it immoral?

If the answer is “no,” you’re probably okay.

My youngest took a bottle with him to bed for much too long. I finally got worried and cut a larger hole in the tip so that milk would drip onto his face. Naturally, it worked. Not that I’m recommending my crazy ways. Just keep things in perspective. I have yet to see a college student who leaves home and still needs a pacifier or demands to be rocked to sleep each night. {It’s a weird world though. I’m sure it’s happened.}

4. They’re learning to become independent.

This is the goal of parenting, right? Like baby chicks in the nest, we feed them and protect them and nurture them. But we also teach them how to fly and navigate this big world on their own.

Let’s be honest. Learning to fly is a disaster for everyone involved. If you don’t believe me, google some nature videos on baby birds learning to fly. It’s a flurry of feathers and squawking and panic and death-defying swoops.

But the babies will never learn to fly if the mamas don’t let them practice.

Image courtesy of Marian Vischer

I wish I’d stood back and let my little ones exercise more independence when it was appropriate. I fought far too many unnecessary battles, all in the name of “teaching them to obey.” {Which they have to learn but I don’t believe it’s the chief end of parenting.}

And can we talk about battles for a moment? The very word implies fighting, bloodshed, and exhaustion. If you spend all your time battling your three-year-old who wants to wear a ridiculous outfit and fix her own hair, you’ll have nothing left when that same three-year-old bites her baby brother or throws her cup of milk in your face.

Save your energy for the battles that matter. She will not always wear 517 barrettes in her hair, nor will she always vehemently refuse your help. Let her practice doing things in her own way. One day, her courage and resilience will astound you.

Marian Vischer
Marian Vischer
Marian is a wife, mom, Communications Director for a local non-profit, and writer. She's been writing on the Internet since 2007 and in scattered journals since adolescence. Marian believes in the power of personal stories to tell a greater story and she inspires others to recapture the hope and possibility of their right-now lives, no matter how messy or impossible things seem. When she's not running a taxi service for her three kids, you can find her at local thrift stores hunting for buried treasure or on her screen porch with a book. She loves personality tests, solitude, making things pretty, taking pictures, and leaning ever more into the love of Jesus. You can follow her blog at MarianVischer.com.

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