I was talking to the mother of a toddler the other day who was describing in great detail the trials and tribulations of potty training her almost 3-year-old. When you are in the thick of it, it feels like it will last forever. Everything from the early feedings, weaning, sleep training to teaching your kids how to behave in public places like restaurants and movie theaters can feel endless when you are feeling all the growing pains. And somehow through the filter of exhaustion everything seems magnified.
Ask any parent of several children the difference between those stages with the first child and with the last. What those parents have learned is both the good news and the bad news. Those trying phases, along with some of the intensely adorable ones, all pass relatively quickly. When we look back on them they don’t seem quite as daunting. The angst we had over getting our child to say good-bye to the pacifier or the diaper becomes replaced by our focus on new developmental milestones.
Just when we think we have it all figured out a new parenting puzzle is set before us to keep us on our toes.
While it can be intensely annoying to hear a grandparent make light of your panic that your child will want to take his crib to college because he refuses to sleep in his big boy bed, it would serve you well to take a deep breath and realize that they have actually been through it all before. Of course some first time parents are naturally more laid back and likely spare themselves a lot of early grey hair by adopting a more relaxed attitude. Speaking as one of the less laid back majority I can say now that I wish I had worried less about the little things with my first child (which seemed big, of course, back then).
I notice myself reacting so differently with my second child around the exact same subject that would have sent me tearing through text books in the middle of the night. Yes – I am now more informed and I have always found information to be my greatest anxiety reducer, but truly it is not the technical knowledge of how to overcome each hurdle that allows me to be more laid back but the knowledge that this phase too shall pass.
So if you find yourself exhausted or frustrated by a particular stage in your child’s early life, try to hold on to the notion that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Make a list each day of the small or large joys you experienced with your baby or toddler so you can try to stay focused on the positive, and remember to take some time for yourself so you can be fully present when you are interacting with your little one. Of course if you do have any real concerns about your child’s development make sure to discuss them with your pediatrician as soon as possible.