his 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-for–three–hours-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-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 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