If you are a mom, you know as well as I do that the thing most repeated to us, by friends and strangers, is the phrase, “The days are long, but the years are so short.” Or, “They change so quickly.” It’s often derided as a cliché, as something that doesn’t help us in the moment, as the yearnings of an old woman to feel young again. Several times I have responded too quickly and too loudly, “Yes, I’m sure, but the days are VERY long.”
But recently, I’ve decided to take them at their word. Not in the nostalgic way that they mean, or in the condescending manner when they imply that we are not enjoying our life as much as we should; you know, the life that we have that is full of grabbing, and yelling and constant need.
But I’ve decided to take it as my parenting mantra for every phase that happens. It passes. And as much as we like to think that our methods and discipline and tricks and toys matter, often they simply don’t.
When my second boy was born, my toddler (then almost 2) fell spectacularly apart. I know, I know, they all say it happens. All the old women in all the grocery stores could have told me, “Just wait. It happens.” Overnight, my sweet, calm, sympathetic toddler started hitting, throwing things, and screaming in my face. It was like a switch had been flipped. He threw tantrums and broke things. He bit and spat.
And because I was in the throes of Post-Partum Depression, trying to focus whatever energy I had on my baby, I pretty much just let him. I said, “Ouch! I don’t like that!” and I would give him a hug, put him in his room, gave him back his pacifier that we had been trying to wean him from, and did exactly nothing else.
I don’t know that it’s generally considered good parenting, but I did what I could with the resources that I had in the moment.
And you know what?
After he realized that Baby was here to stay, after he realized we were staying too, after he spent enough time with his blanket and his pacifier, in his safe, dark room, he stopped.
And I learned an important lesson.
It’s not always about what WE do, as parents. In fact, it may be less about what I do then I ever imagined. Tips and tricks and methods are wonderful. And I am not deriding any of these. Sometimes, in certain situations, especially when they are hurting others, we do need to do something. Things do need to change, and sometimes they need to change quickly.
But more and more, I’m starting to trust in the slow, methodical change that time brings. I’m beginning to believe those old women more and more. Childhood DOES pass. They don’t stay children forever. They will not be in diapers at 10, they will not be sleeping in your bed at 15, they will not be spilling every single drink you hand them at 8.
Maybe, just maybe, those women, whether regretful or condescending or rude, were right after all. They will grow up. And maybe the secret to parenthood is simply this: trusting the passage of time.