Moments and Phases

This week, Sophie and I have had a tough week. Every “no” has been met with a “but.” Every request has come out as a demand. “Please” and “thank you” have all been but forgotten. One day she was whining so much I truly wondered if her whine voice was her new normal voice. I posted on Facebook, “Sophie had her moments when she was 2 and 3. But 4. Ohmygoodness 4. No one warned me about 4.”

Many people responded to my post. Some were dismayed to learn that it doesn’t, necessarily, get easier. Others warned me that, for them, the so-called difficult years were still to come. And then there’s my friend Aaron. He said, “Someday, we’ll get to an age when we look back on when our kids were young and we won’t be able to remember the stuff they did that made us age early. Until then, keep on keeping on! This is life.”

He’s right. Already, in my four short years of parenting, I can tell that it’s not years that are difficult. But phases.

Like the I-want-to-nurse-every-hour-and-I-will-scream-bloody-murder-if-I’m-not-attached-to-your-boob phase.

Or the I’m-going-to-pee-on-you-every-time-you-change-me phase.

Or the I’m-going-to-poop-12-times-a-day-in-a-rainbow-of-colors-to-totally-freak-you-out phase.

Or the I’m-not-going-to-poop-for-a-week-to-totally-freak-you-out phase.

Or the I-want-to-be-bounced-until-your-arms-are-burning-with-pain phase.

Or the I-want-to-be-wide-awake-between-2am-and-4am phase.

Or the I’m-going-to-put-everything-in-my-mouth-including-dead-bugs-and-stale-Cheerios-buried-in-my-car seat phase.

Or the I’m-going-to-pull-at-your-shirt-in-public-exposing-your-bra-to-everyone phase.

Or the I’m-going-to-take-away-all-your-“me”-time-by-requiring-your-assistance-forthreehours-to-go-to-sleep-every-night-for-a-month phase.

Or the I’m-only-going-to-eat-cheese phase.

Or the I-will-totally-and-completely-freak-out-when-you-leave-my-sight phase.

Or the I’m-going-to-insist-on-doing-everything-myself-even-though-I-can’t-quite-do-everything-myself-and-I’m-going-to-get-unreasonably-frustrated-when-you-try-to-help-me-or-you-don’t-try-to-help-me-and-I-fail phase.

Or the I-will-beg-you-to-read-the-same-book-to-me-12-times-a-day phase.

Or the I-will-beg-you-to-sing-“Old-MacDonald-Had-a-Farm”-to-me-12-times-a-day phase.

Or the I-will-run-into-everything-covering-myself-with-bruises-making-you-worry-that-someone-is-going-to-call-Child-Services-on-you phase.

Or the I-will-climb-everything phase.

Or the I-will-refuse-to-hold-your-hand-in-parking-lots phase.

Or the I-will-laugh-and-enjoy-it-when-you-put-me-in-time-out phase.

Or the I-will-draw-on-walls-and-not-paper-but-only-when-you’re-not-looking phase.

Or the I-will-draw-all-over-myself-with-non-washable-markers-that-you-can-only-blame-yourself-for-buying phase.

Or the I-will-take-off-my-socks-and-shoes-the-second-you-put-me-in-the-car-seat phase.

Or the I-will-suddenly-for-no-reasonable-explanation-become-terrified-of-the-dark phase.

Or the I-will-insist-on-picking-out-every-item-of-clothing-I-wear-every-day-and-I-will-make-sure-your-eyes-will-hurt-when-you-look-at-me phase.

Or the I-will-ask-“why”-over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and-over phase.

Or the  I-will-stand-against-the-wall-screaming-refusing-to-get-in-the-pool-for-any-of-the-expensive-swim-lessons-you-bought phase.

Or the I-will-stick-my-hand-down-my-diaper-even-when-it’s-dirty phase.

Or the my-nose-will-run-all-day-for-a-week-straight-requiring-you-to-chase-me-down-and-wipe-it-clean-while-I-scream-72-times-a-day phase.

Or the I-will-open-doors-I’m-not-supposed-to phase.

Or the I-will-push-things-into-the-pantry-so-I-can-climb-on-top-of-them-to-get-treats-I’m-not-supposed-to-have-at-9:30-in-the-morning phase.

Or the-I-will-yell-for-you-to-come-upstairs-threatening-to-wake-up-my-brothers-with-my-screams-22-times-over-two-hours-until-I-finally-fall-asleep phase.

Or the I-will-wake-up-at-6am-demanding-oatmeal-even-though-I-didn’t-fall-asleep-until-11pm phase.

Or the I-will-argue-every-time-you-say-no phase, which we are in, now.

And here’s the thing. They’re just phases. They end. They always end. Even when they feel like they will never end, they always end. And … a new one comes along.

But if that sounds depressing, here’s another thing. Interspersed between all the phases are moments. These incredible make-you-want-to-cry-with-joy-beam-with-pride-thank-God-or-the-universe-or-whatever-that-you-do-or-don’t-believe-in-that-you’re-alive moments.

Kicks from within.


Falling asleep on my chest.

Unprompted smiles.

Unprompted kisses.

Unprompted hugs.

Unprompted I love yous.

A hand-drawn “family portrait.”

The first lone trip down the slide.

The first lone scooter ride.

The first walk into preschool.

Concern, for me.

Concern, for others.

Concern, for plants and animals.

A song sung quietly, completely, simply for the joy of it.

Holding hands without a fight.


Conversations, real conversations.

Firsts. All the firsts.

Lasts. All the lasts.

Seemingly-insignificant-but actually-quite-significant betweens. All those catch-you-off-guard betweens.

And the many, many, many, oh-so many more.

The moments make it all worth it. And  in a way, the phases do, too. Because it all intertwines, wraps itself around each other and weaves in and out creating the tapestry we call life. Some of it’s good. Really good. Some of it’s bad. Really bad. But it is what it is and even though I had a column in my college newspaper called “Beautiful, Isn’t It?” I’m not going to lie here and say that it’s all beautiful. Because it’s not. In fact, some of it is downright ugly. But then, there are these beautiful, incredible, make-it-totally-worth-it moments. Moments that make us have more children. Moments that make us love when other people have children. Moments that make the human race continue on.

So Sophie and I are in a phase. The two of us sat down and talked about it. I had a glass of wine after she went to bed. We had a better day today. Tonight I got an unprompted I love you.

I hate the phases, while in them. I think, when I’m in a phase, I have to be the only person going through such a phase and I ask, over and over, Why is this so hard? And then I look back at the phases and think, That wasn’t so hard. I forget phases. I live for moments. I love moments. I remember moments. I look forward to moments, engrave moments in my brain, wish moments didn’t pass by so quickly.





It’s all just life. All my children will have phases this year, next year, 10 years from now, into adulthood. And yet, they will all have moments. These incredible, life-changing moments this year, next year, 10 years from now, into adulthood.

And I want them. I want the phases. I want the moments. I want them all. Because it’s a package deal with kids. You can’t pick and choose. The bad makes the good seem better. They’re human. I’m human. It’s life.

This is life.

And although I may not always be happy in it, I’m happy for it. So happy for it.

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” —Frederick Buechner


In the Time it Took the Water to Boil

Andy came home. Both front doors were locked and I had no idea he was standing on the porch, on this blustery February day, peering through the window, trying to convince the children which way to turn the dead bolt. All three kids finally came running and screaming into the kitchen, where I was making simple spaghetti.

“Daddy’s home!”

I unlocked the door. Sophie insisted on doing the rest. What followed was the every-night pushing forward, jumping up, stepping in, arms reaching, tail viciously wagging chaos as James, Sophie, Owen and Tucker all competed to be hugged first.

Andy complimented my hair, even though it was a simple mess of curls piled on top of my head.

I checked the water.

Sophie begged Andy to play monster.

More chaos. Andy on all fours, roaring, roaming about the living room, taking children one by one and tossing them onto the window seat cushions (which had long been pushed onto the dining room floor) and tickling them until they begged him to stop. And then begged him to start again. Screams, laughter, roaring, barking for a good five minutes.

The water began to boil. The monster was tired. I listened to the house slowly quiet as I watched steam rise and disappear—much like the moment.

I held out my hand in front of me, watching as the steam floated upward through my fingers, wishing I could grasp the moment, catch it and put it in the handmade wooden puzzle box Andy gave to me years ago. The box that holds simple memories I’m able to keep outside of me—a dried wildflower picked from a patch of grass along a sidewalk we used to walk on often; a small origami bird made from a bright orange Post-it note; a tiny diamond earring, its match long gone.

I love big. I do. Often, while folding laundry, especially, I wish for more big. But would more big mean less small? If so, I take back my wish. I do.

“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.” —Ashley Montagu