This Too Shall Pass
By Jen Holman
Last week at the pool, two friends walked by as I sat on a lounge chair halfway through a novel. They teased—quickly, for they were chasing toddlers—how nice it must be to kick back and relax. But it wasn’t that long ago I was the one throwing death stares at the tanned and tranquil parents lounging on beach towels. Oh, what a difference a year makes. Gone are my days of swim diapers and the shallow end. I’m happy to say I recently held an entire conversation pool-side and went home with dry hair.
This too shall pass. It’s something we say to a mom struggling in the grocery store with a baby on one hip and a screaming 3-year-old at her feet. It’s a way to say, “Hey, girl, I’ve been there. I made it to the other side with only minimal loss of sanity and you will, too.” Crying babies eventually find their words and sleepless nights fade into normal sleep patterns until they hardly seem real at all.
For me, some of the hardest times as a parent were those first few months. Sleep-deprived, only conscious enough to resent the stubborn baby weight, uncertain about … everything, and the demoralizing feeling you’re nothing more than a glorified feed bag. Not my favorite. I remember such relief at the four-month mark because it’s when I felt I could finally put my boob away for a minute. The teeny-tiny newborn stage had passed. And then it was gone.
That’s the scary thing. This too shall pass, but it doesn’t return. They’re not little for long. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to hold one of my three again and inhale that new-baby smell. Their aromas now are … less appealing. And once they learn to talk, they never shut up.
Just when I want to cling to her, my preteen daughter already has one foot out the door. I’m all for independence, but the last decade went by in a blink. I know one day much too soon I’ll look up to find her leaving for college. The old-timers said it would happen this way. I should have listened. But I was too busy wishing the difficult early days were over. Now they are. Now there’s back-talking and crop tops and iPads. Give me back my toddlers!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about not letting my role as a parent become my sole identity. That’s a tough thing to do when the kids are primarily what I’m thinking about. They’re certainly where most of my time and energy and money go. But when the time for children living under my roof has passed, I don’t want to feel lost. I’m trying to nurture a career and friendships I know will last. When soccer schedules and school commitments call shotgun, I’m trying to keep myself in the driver’s seat. For when they’re gone. For when their time of needing me has passed.
To new parents and those girls at the pool I say meals and bedtime won’t always be such a hassle. You won’t forever smell of spit-up. And one day soon you’ll throw a book in your bag and throw the floaties out.
This too shall pass, but grip tightly as it slips through your fingers.
You’ll go from chasing toddlers to chilling poolside with your favorite book in the blink of an eye!