This past weekend my little family of four adventured out to a Home Improvement store to pick out some new light fixtures for the boys bedrooms. As has become our regular routine for outings such as these, my husband shopped, my boys misbehaved and I spent the entire trip alternating between doling out snacks and mom hisses of slow down, stop running, no hitting, be nice etc, etc, etc. Having a 2 and 4 year old is an exhausting stage in life. My sons have an exuberance together that makes compliance to rules difficult. They egg each other. They laugh as they push and prod each other and I have found myself repeating the ol’ “it’s all fun and games until some one gets hurt” adage with an annoying frequency.
Despite having to give my four year one of my award winning stern mom talks about recognizing who in the family wears the boss title (spoiler alert – it’s not him!) we decided to extend our trip out to the “real world” by having lunch and taking a walk around the tree lines street of shops and restaurants, most of which I wouldn’t dream of entering with my WWE wannabes in training who also were working on their 50 yard dash skills with a side of selective hearing. As we came upon an upscale gastropub I looked over to see a couple dining on the patio with a calm and quiet one year old sitting in a high chair. They seemed relaxed. From this one quick view it looked like a young family who had it all figured out. A stark and obvious contrast at that moment in time to the wild and uncontrolled rapscallions that I spawned. As we passed by in our familiar state of disarray I had that thought…the dreaded thought I try not to have. The awful and hated by all parents (including me), thought. “Just wait.”
It’s one of those things I hate to have to admit. I whole-heartedly try my hardest to not “just wait” parents of children younger than mine. “Just wait” is almost exclusively followed by some miserable overly dramatic description of life in the next stages of parenting. It’s condescending. It’s unnecessary. It’s meant to take away the joys of the current stages and assert that YOU know more about parenting. And when you get down to it, it’s really subjective. What do I really know about anyone else’s future just based on my experience? That being said, I’m not perfect. When you are standing with (or running after) your two out of control
hellions children in front of a parent with a child pre tantrum age who also has limited mobility and no desire yet to feel the wind in their peachy fuzz hair, and you see that look on their face which whether right or wrong you read as “I’m obviously more in control of my offspring than you” – Well it’s hard not to just want to laugh demonically and rub your hands together knowing that in less than a year they will likely be joining you at the sandwich shop up the street instead of the trendy cool gastropub for brunch. The honest truth is I don’t actually wish negative parenting experiences on anyone. It will happen, I’m sure, but I don’t wish it to be this way. Unfortunately, every parent will eventually be on the other end of that look. You know the one – The “why would you bring your out of control child here” look or it’s sister the look, the “please dear God don’t bring your children in here” look. And after years of being on the receiving end of “the look” it’s easy to get defensive even when the offending party is doing nothing more than enjoying a brunch on a patio with their child who happens to be in a delightful stage of life very likely not even giving your brood a second thought. Most likely I am projecting. Maybe I side eyed another family with a rambunctious toddler and a mouthy preschooler before I knew better. I’m not saying I did (shhh I did) but it’s probable that it happened. But regardless of the cause, even as it’s hitting me, my own parental paranoia, I know it’s wrong. I know it’s not the kind of person I want to be. You can’t take one moment in life in two different families and compare it on any scale that makes sense.
It may still be my first instinct from time to time (specifically those times when let’s admit it, I’m freaking jealous of the calm I’m witnessing) to focus on the ways in which my children’s behavior is or isn’t stacking up to other little ones, I’ve worked hard to remind myself that I can only do my best and hope the same for others. So instead of focusing on all the “just waits” that will cause grey hairs and disapproving looks and awkward moments and and and… I am taking this moment in time to pull myself out of the weeds, look at the bigger parenthood picture and remind myself that I had those moments once too and they were fabulous.
They were fabulous.
Instead of “just waiting” parents with stories of life in the trenches or rolling my eyes (hmm..I wonder where my four year old picked up that habit?) as a new parent gushes over how “easy” their child is I’m going to breath, take a moment to reflect on when I had it “easier” and focus on all of the fun that comes with having two spirited tots who keep me on my toes and most certainly remind me that even if it’s void of brunches and mimosas, this stage of life is full of adventure. So if you have a child who is at a stage where you can dine with in public then cheers to you (no honestly, and have a second mimosa for me please!) These days are wonderful and should be celebrated. If you are like me and currently living in the Chik-fil-a level dining experience than cheers to you. These days will bring you a humility and humbleness that will make you a more understanding and empathetic version of yourself – and also waffle fries. And if you have made it to the other side of this phase of parenthood then cheers to you. The days go fast and the years go faster and as I meet many of you in life who stop to remind me that I should enjoy these moments I know that you are right and I thank you for reminding me that in the end I will miss this more than I could ever imagine. So instead of “just wait”-ing other parents, I’ll just wait right here, with my two silly and beautiful and heart attack inducing boys – for the next wonderful and stressful and lovely and difficult and better than anything else in the world phase, because that is parenthood and that is worth just waiting for.