A recurring theme has been popping up in my daily life lately. I can’t even remember all of the specific moments, but it essentially boils down to numerous people (singers, bloggers, friends, etc.) voicing what they believe is the best phase of life. For instance, I read a post written by a woman I really respect the other night. She was making a very strong statement that marriage after the first 20 years is better than the first 20 and detailed the reasons why the first two decades are so difficult. It was a great piece, but what she failed to do was explain that this was the case for her. She made the first 20 years sound almost miserable, even though I’m sure that’s not the case nor was it her intent.
Every time I hear Glory Days by Betty Who, I think about how much fun I had in my teens and early 20s, but I don’t know that it was any better than life in my 30s.” It’s different, that’s for sure! But I don’t think it was any better. Sure, I had fewer responsibilities when I was younger, but I had less life experience, which I consider invaluable now.
Both of my sons used to complain on a regular basis that they didn’t want to grow up. They would often end up in tears because it was too much for their sensitive little hearts to bear. (Incidentally, I love that my boys [5 & nearly 9] can talk about their feelings!) I know for a fact, based on discussion with them, that even though they both still believe they’ll live at home forever, they also know they will become increasingly independent with age. They know the current bedtime routines will eventually stop. They know they won’t fit in their favorite small spaces forever. They know Mama & Daddy won’t always make their meals and read to them and play with them. They know they will have more responsibilities as they mature. This makes them genuinely sad. I get it. It makes me sad, too.
But what I firmly believe and try to teach my children is that life is a fantastic journey with something new to offer at every stage, even in the really hard parts. This is where my more cynical readers roll their eyes and say they’re sick of my optimism, but I’m not changing a damn thing. Seeing life through this lens is inconceivably rewarding. When my kids complain about the summer heat, I tell them to enjoy their time in the pool because fall will be here before we know it. When fall arrives, we put up with our seasonal allergies while we enjoy cooler weather and go to the pumpkin patch. When winter comes, we take advantage of our time cooped up inside by making warm memories. Having said all of this, I, too, have a favorite season; but I think it’s so easy for us to focus so intently on our favorite season that we miss the beauty of the other three… or childhood… or the development of a new relationship… or the death of a loved one and all the lessons we learn in tough times. While we’re pining over our youth or dreading our future, we miss what is right in front of us.
Life is full of seasons. Friends come and go. We move homes and change jobs. We experience tragedies and grow in faith and love. What my kids don’t understand at their young age is that although we won’t be able to snuggle up in one chair when they’re grown, we will still be an affectionate family. And although some of the topics will evolve from Pokémon (dear God, I hope!) and what happened in the hallway at school, we will still discuss our fears and hopes and what’s happening in the world and our lives. There might someday be the added topic of what our grandchildren are up to, too!
It makes me sad to see my children growing up because I know I will never relive these moments. Life is a one-shot canon. It goes by so fast, it’s hard to enjoy each moment for what it is. But this is one of my top objectives of parenting: to raise them to always look for the silver lining and to appreciate the beauty withheld in every single moment, for every moment on this earth is a precious gift. It’s too short to live it dwelling on things out of our control.