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When the next is suddenly the now
Chaos & Contentment
kids and dog

For the past couple of years I have focused on writing about my pre-teen and teenage children. I began to reflect on how much I’ve learned about children and managing life by raising my kids. I didn’t do it all correctly and I have grown along the way. 

I have learned not to take life too seriously. I try not to dwell on the past although I enjoy sitting with the memories of their childhood. 

A parent will be tired, unorganized, organized, loving, disciplined, consistent, inconsistent, silly, strong, intelligent, stupid and learning all through the experience.

I started thinking about what I would tell my 33-year-old self if given the opportunity. I might as well get to the younger “me” before I had kids, and start with faith. 

Have children young if you want. People will tell you the best time to have kids is (fill in the blank). Don’t be scared. God works things out if you have trust.

Stop worrying about the way things are “supposed” to be. Find gratitude in where you are right now. Keep this attitude and it will get better. 

Then I would get into the grit of raising children. And yes, it takes “grit.” Most of us have heard it from our own parents: “True grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done.” -- John Wayne

Here are some of the things that are special reminders and just to help a parent get through the day. 

--Keep a journal, especially when they are babies. You will forget the quiet, little moments. Write about them.

--The days are long but the years are short. Enjoy the littles. Act silly and sing that same annoying song they love over and over. They will remember this, I promise.  This phase will go fast, even on the longest days. Trust me, your heart will be warmed when they can sing it as teenagers. 

--Sleep when you can. No one cares if the house is a wreck except you. Sleep is more important.  If someone does care, invite them to clean it. 

--If you enjoy it, let the children sleep with you. If you don’t, move them to their bed. (Disclaimer: don’t drink alcohol and sleep in the same bed with your children!) They will stop someday, I promise, and you will miss them when they do. 

--Find a job that will be flexible with your children’s schedules. Picking up my children at 6 p.m., dinner by 7 and then both straight to bed is not quality time. If you can’t do it now, work toward it. I regret the lost time for the couple of years I did this. I didn’t have much of a choice but I worked hard to change this lifestyle, and I finally did. When you do find that job, be grateful and let your employer know you are. Take less money and simplify your life. Children need you, not more things. 

--Take day trips. Find places that are unique nearby. Some of our best memories were these day trips. Science museums, parks, civil war sites, state parks are all great for a couple hours, a packed lunch and then back home. Even when a trip has challenges, memories are made; sometimes the best ones. 

--Grow things. Grow food or flowers. Chickens! When kids are small they have fun and learn so much about life and death just from the natural order of things. 

--Act silly and goofy with your children. They will embarrass you. Trust me, you will get opportunities to get them back…and get them good. 

--Get a pet. I highly suggest a dog. This special animal is a family and childhood bond for them. When the world seems harsh, pets lighten the load. I didn’t want a new puppy when we got one. Our dog has been an angel and gift from God in our lives.  

--Be consistent. I was horrible at this but it works. They need to know that if there is a rule, they can’t break it, push the limit, or get away with bending it. Morning routines and evening routines are extremely important. They need to start doing things for themselves early and learn independence. I wish I had instilled this more. Just read any of my pieces on teenage daughters. True grit is raising teenagers. 

You will get pooped on, peed on, puked on, yelled at, hit, scratched, and muddy. It’s not for long. Clean up and move on. You will become tough like you never imagined. Physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I wanted each phase to move on because it seemed so hard at the time. During the screaming, the tantrums, diapers and meltdowns, nothing seems better than the future with an independent child.  I’d give anything to rock my little ones to sleep again, to carry their little sleeping bodies to bed, to give a few more gazillion kisses on their foreheads and sing some ridiculous song just because they laugh. 

However, I will take my first bit of advice and be grateful. I have so much to look forward to. We watch new movies, go to new places, have exhilarating driving lessons, share music, and daydream about the future.  I cheer them on and hug them when they fail. They still need their parents, even when they don’t think they do. It is nice to reflect and think about moments I wish I could have again or a future that could be exciting and scary. 

But really, the most important moment is right now. The present moment, and the experiences I share with my children currently, hold the greatest significance and deserve my undivided reflection. The fun and the challenging will pass, and the next part is suddenly the now.