This too shall pass. How many times have you heard that phrase since becoming a parent? I know that there are some who dislike it and may find it patronising, but for me it is a lifeline and provides me with an instant reminder of just how quickly time passes.
Its easy for me to get caught up in the day to day tasks, washing up, laundry, cleaning, feeding, dressing kids (or more like wrestling when it comes to my 2 year old!) dirty nappies and trips to the bathroom. Seemingly endless requests for ‘more’! More food, more colouring, more drinks, more cartoons, more books, more bubbles, more tickling, more dancing. More. Its easy to let the struggles get you down, whatever your particular parent/child struggle may be, a child who doesn’t eat, or sleep, or drink, or talk, or walk. A child who is permanently attached to you or a child who runs away at every given opportunity (I’ve had one of each!) A child who won’t nap or who naps too much, one who wakes up all night long or one who will only sleep with you. Tantrums. Battles over bathtime and bedtime.
But the truth is that all of those things, however difficult in the moment, will pass. Your teenager won’t need dressing, there will be no more nappies, no more cuddles before naptime, no more rushing through meals at restaurants incase your toddler has a meltdown. Your day won’t revolve around their feeding and sleeping schedules. You will (mostly) get to sleep through the night. You will get to use the bathroom alone. ALONE! You’ll be able to drink a cup of tea whilst it is still hot.
Our biggest struggles always seem to be around sleep. My daughter when she was first born would only nap when I was holding her. I tried everything else and she would just scream and scream and not sleep. She didn’t even sleep in the car!! So I would hold her and wrap my giant cosy cardigan around both of us and sit on the sofa and watch tv whilst my little bundle slept on me. My house wasn’t its tidiest, I wasn’t perfectly presented and honestly I didn’t get too much of anything done in those early months.
As a new Mum, without any Mother figure to guide her, and with Post-natal Depression, I doubted myself a lot. I wondered if I was doing the right thing, if I was doing the wrong thing, if I had tried hard enough to get her to sleep in other places. But a bigger part of me told me I was doing what felt natural and right for me and my daughter and whatever the method it meant my beautiful baby girl was getting the sleep she needed.
Unfortunately other people didn’t see it that way and I was inundated with awfully unhelpful comments that were generally about what a mistake I was making and that I was making a rod for my own back and that Miley would only EVER sleep on me if I didn’t stop it. I tried my best to ignore everyone, but because of my self-doubt it did cause me a lot of worry on and off for a couple of months.
Were these people right?
Would Miley only ever sleep on me?
NO! OF COURSE NOT!!
In our situation Miley didn’t start napping in her cot until we moved house when she was 15 Months. Before then she napped on me (until about 6 months) and then in her pushchair whilst I walked around our local neighbourhood.
She is now 4 and I can safely say that despite holding her A LOT when she was a baby, and her napping on me consistently for the first 6 months, she does NOT sleep on me, she sleeps in her bed quite happily.
That experience alone helped give me so much perspective and so much confidence as a parent. Because I went against what I was being ‘told’ to do and just did what felt natural to us and what felt like the right choice for my baby. Yes there were days when I’d be frustrated about the amount of time that was being used up on naptimes, but those frustrations were normally as a reaction to comments made by others. I can honestly say that those naptime cuddles are my most precious memories of Miley as a baby. Being so close to her and having such peaceful moments with her everyday was a blessing and I am so lucky that I have that experience to hold on to.
She is 4 years old now, and whilst she is still very dependent on me, she is growing so quickly and my tiny baby girl is long gone.
So now, when we are having a struggle, or when I am having a bad day for whatever reason, I remind myself that ‘this too shall pass’ and it makes me think of those newborn cuddles and how people told me they would cause all sorts of problems for us later. When in actual fact they are the answer to so many problems.
Now when Miley wants me to hold her hand before she falls asleep at night I do it without hesitation. Even when I have a million ‘jobs’ to get done I sit next to her bed and hold her hand until she is asleep, because in that moment that is what she needs from me and also because I know ‘this too shall pass’. I know the day will come when she no longer wants me to hold her hand, and in that moment any frustration will slip away and I will be sad that my baby girl has taken another step away from me. I will long for her to want to hold my hand again. To sit with her whilst she slips into a deep peaceful sleep.
Whilst the phrase can be applied to many aspects of parenting, I know not all of those aspects will be looked back upon with fondness. Who will miss dirty nappies? Anyone? No. I didn’t think so. But when nappies are gone, babyhood and toddlerhood will also be gone, and I think that is a time that most parents will wistfully look back upon. The negatives and struggles forgotten and just the lovely aspects remembered, the smell of a babies head, their tiny hand clasped around your fingers, holding them whilst they sleep, baby giggles, first steps, first words, cuddles, cuddles and more cuddles.
The fact that at that age, you are very much the centre of their universe and you are their safe harbour whilst they learn and explore the world around them. I am no expert, my children are still so small, I know this. But I am confident that children change and grow and as one phase passes another one begins. Something we struggle with today may be gone tomorrow, but what else will slip away at the same time? Some days I find it tough being home with two little ones who leave a trail of toys and crumbs behind them as they move around the house. Sometimes I long for quiet and a chance to have a bath and to sleep for as long as I want! But I know with certainty that these days won’t last forever and that in the grand scheme of things, they are but a moment. A day will come when I long for my children around me, for a noisy house, for toys to tidy up and for tiny hands to hold.
I read somewhere once that ‘the days may feel long, but the years are short’ and it struck a cord with me. So now in those less than perfect moments, I remind myself, ‘this too shall pass’ and I try to embrace it, to remember it, to give my kids what they need in that moment. It doesn’t always work, but then I’m not perfect, I’m just trying to make these moments last and I’m trying my best to remember them all.