Looking back ... and forward
I'd like to say it's Facebook's fault. Or maybe Mac Photos, as it cycles through a never-ending stream of our photo collection as a screen saver on the computer. Pic after adorable pic, each one another trip down memory lane. At any rate, it's hard not to ogle the memory pics, at the past uber-cute moments, reminisce, and wonder why your kids aren't like that any longer. They no longer have fat dimples on their elbows, or toddle around the floor in the semi-drunk fashion only admirable in one less than 2.5 feet in height. They don't giggle and chatter at their own reflection in the mirror and they don't adorably drool on everything they can cram in their mouths. They don't have bandaids on each knee, and skip between every point A and point B. In short, they've moved from one phase to the next to the next, shape-shifting and transforming until just a glimpse of that gap-toothed charming grin can be seen.
Kind of makes your heart break a little.
And swell a lot, when you focus on how amazing they are now. I can help but admire the phase that they are in now. Because that, too, will at some point in the indeterminable future shift into yet another phase filled with yet more talents and abilities (and potentially annoying habits). So.
Part of appreciating each phase is in part knowing that it is fleeting and also knowing that it is developmentally appropriate. Let's look at each part of that sentence.
'knowing that it is fleeting' - I remember one day way back when child #1 was a tiny little drooly, dimpled blob, one of our friends reminded us (wisely) that we should appreciate each phase, no matter how annoying or challenging it might be. It would, assuredly and undoubtedly, change soon enough, and then we would, assuredly and inevitably, miss it. We would miss the loud screeching joyous whoop of the child and the dog and the aforementioned child bathing each other in saliva (so gross). The obsessive love of pokemon (no idea what the boys are talking about when they slip off into Pokémon realm). Armpit farts. The swing-between-the-parents'-hands phase. Each different current-fad-phrase-at-school phase ('Brah!') Reading jags like those ridiculous Diary of a wimpy kid library day unloads. Stopping to check out every.single.rock.and.pebble between the door and the sidewalk phase. The 'I do it!!!' phase. The I-love-my-older-brother phase (usually followed very closely by the I-loathe-my-little-brother phase). The mimic phase. Baby talk phase. The lying phase. The 'why?' phase. The parents-know-nothing phase. The trying-out-sarcasm phase.
Am I right? They are very very cute NOW as we look back. At the time? Hmm.
'knowing that it is developmentally appropriate' - Yeah, you've probably read as many books as I have. We all think we KNOW what is right and wrong and where our kid(s) fall on the spectrum. Still, it's good to be able to look around and say, assuredly, 'Yeah, my kid is normal.' Seeing your friends' kids doing much the same as yours is reassuring; you've done all the right things to get your kid this far. He's normal. He's hitting all the right marks. Well done, my friend.
Actually, as an aside, the phrase 'developmentally appropriate' is a funny one. If you’re one ‘in the know’, then you realize how vague that expression really is. What is developmentally appropriate for one child may be too simplistic for another of the same age and, at the same time, too challenging for yet another. What is most important for YOUR child is that they continue on a progression with an upward momentum, and they feel genuinely curious to continue trying, even if they are a little extra challenged. 100% success on the first try is not right; 100% failure is clearly not it, either.
What about our own parenting phases? You know what I am talking about. The fear-of-dropping/breaking-the-baby phase. The react-to-every-fever phase. The post-ever-picture phase. The not-sleeping phase. The child-not-sleeping phase. The tiger parent phase. The soccer mom/dad phase. The recorder concert phase. The latest parenting book fad phase. The driver’s ed phase (strikes fear in every car-owning parents’ heart). The child #2 phase. The child #3 phase. Then you fall into that phase of parenting when things don’t faze you; calm is the state of mind. You can and do deal with all of it ... regardless if there is blood or not (that’s usually after child #3). You grow with the kids, and understand what they need. You support without overstepping. You protect without infringing. You rock as a parent. And then teenage years hit.
Methinks part of the phases we move through as parents are in part from inexperience (who knew a real human baby would be so much more helpless than a fur baby?!) and then lack of confidence (my actions and interactions with my are impacting another human being?! O.m.g.), and then awe (look at this amazing person who is my child).
But back to phases. By definition, a phase is not an enduring state. It is (perhaps thankfully) not permanent, but each phase is a part of development and human growth… both on the part of our kids AND ourselves. And each is necessary to go through/endure as your child moves up the ladder toward adulthood and as you grow as a parent. Take a deep breath, my friends. Enjoy each phase because you never know when it will be the last time you get to see it.