I’m in a heavy season of learning the value of slow, steady plodding. The quick reward of forward advance is rare. If I had my choice, I prefer the fast sprint. It gives a refreshing change of scenery. When I interviewed for jobs and landed one right out of college, it was a thrilling leap. When I got a positive pregnancy test, it felt like hurtling off a cliff, like my whole life had just changed direction. My identity was going to go through a washing machine of change, and I embraced the possibility of becoming slightly unrecognizable on the other side. I’m pretty glad I’m not the same girl I was in high school.
But right now, it is slow plodding. Almost every day looks exactly like the one before. Parenting (of toddlers, at least) is like a marathon. Toddlers learn through methodical consistency. They crave routine. They adore repetition. The problems I bumped up against yesterday, I will encounter again today. I know many of you are feeling the swing of the seasons as school starts up again and the smell of sunscreen fades away. But that is still a few years off for a young mama.
I often feel like I am walking through metaphorical mud. I have a goal in mind, and I am carrying (sometimes, dragging) my sweet little Kublys towards it. Say your pleases and thank you’s, talk with a kind tone, clean up toys with me, learn to sit at the table. They’re small things, but I believe manners are essential. I expect them to treat all people with respect and dignity, and to learn self-discipline in the small things so I can trust them in the big things, too.
There are a shocking number of battles to be fought. And following a “battle” you have to keep sticking to your guns with unwavering consistency. I have one peanut who is very opinionated, opposing me like a force. It’s hard to know which battles are worth picking and which to accept as part of her creative expression or independence. I remember in May, Evelyn absolutely refused to wear shorts. A simple piece of clothing was upsetting every day’s routine of getting dressed. As a parent, I knew we were headed towards summer with 90 degree temps, and shorts were a necessity. But I also knew some parents would just give in. I had to ask a trusted friend, two steps ahead of me, what to do. How do you choose?
I’ve haven’t been doing this long, but here’s what I genuinely believe. The options we give our children should be like an upside down triangle. Toddlers should get very few choices in life, because our job as parents is to guide and protect them. Your tiny person doesn’t need to choose between 10 different types of toothpaste at Target, or a refrigerator full of food for lunch. In fact, it overwhelms them. But as they grow, you should gradually offer them more and more freedom. As teenagers, you can trust them to act as you’ve taught them, and you don’t have to suddenly start ruling with an iron fist. It’s a gradual progression towards adulthood.
While progress seems slow, it is helpful to celebrate the parenting “hurdles” we’ve overcome. The same little peanut also refused to wear ponytails, and unlike the shorts, we let this one slide. Interestingly enough, three months later, Evie will wear shorts and occasionally asks to wear ponytails. One we forced on her, the other we let go. It’s important to me that my kids know I have a bigger view of the world than they do.
I want to strike a balance between accepting and transforming my kids. I want to accept their uniqueness and their gifts and their insights. But I also hope to slowly transform and teach them. Of course the most important transformation is to see their sinfulness and turn towards repentance. And the greatest acceptance I can show them is to love the way God has uniquely crafted them. I truly believe God calls us to both. Like most things, it’s very difficult to find that happy middle.
So parenthood is a daily work. I’m learning, and this is where I’m at 2 1/2 years in. It’s a huge lesson for me in patience and perseverance. And the little wins, like shorts + ponytails, pleases + thank you’s, they feel huge.
p.s. If you’re in the midst of toddlerhood + babyhood, like me, I’ve been loving the essays, like this one, “notes on weaning, eating young” from Erstwhile Dear.