When my kids were all little, I remember people saying to me, “This is the best time of your life. Enjoy it!”
That suggestion really ruffled my feathers.
Those days were difficult. I never slept through the night. And it seemed like I was constantly taking care of the physical needs of my children.
Bathing. Dressing. Brushing hair. Brushing teeth. Feeding. Changing diapers. Cleaning up perpetual messes. Again and again. Day in and day out. Spinning my wheels, but never seeming to go anywhere.
It was exhausting! Which is why I remember being annoyed at those well-meaning people who told me how wonderful that stage of my life was. How could living in a cloud of exhaustion be so fantastic? How could continuously doing things that didn’t stay done be so fulfilling?
Sadly, I wish I had listened to those well-meaning people. Their message was positive and encouraging. They were the cheerleaders of my early parenting years. I should have trusted their life experience and perspective. They knew what they were talking about.
As I flip through scrapbooks of those early days, I am filled with so much nostalgia. Those days, while physically demanding, were truly beautiful. I wish I had not let a moment go by without soaking in the magic of that stage of life.
In those days, our life was centered in the home and we were always together. When we went out, we went out together. When we read a book, we snuggled together. When we ate a meal, everyone was always present. I was able to choose so many things about my children’s lives. And I was always there to make sure things were okay with them.
Now I have children in three different schools and a toddler at home. My life is no longer so much consumed by the physical needs of my children. For the most part, they take care of themselves in this way. And while I definitely go to bed later than I used to, I sleep most nights uninterrupted by children.
This stage of life has a new set of challenges. They used to be primarily physical. Now there is an added emotional component. From the moment we get up in the morning we are rushing in different directions. It feels like we have to do fancy footwork to make time to be together. Each of my eight children has his/her own to do list. School. Job. Sports. Music. Church. Friends. Sometimes I feel like I live in my car as I chauffeur my kids to their various activities.
I think about my kids constantly. Are they happy? Are they making good choices? Do they know I love them? But life is moving too fast for me to be satisfied with the ever changing answers.
This stage of my life is full of guilt and doubt and fear. That I am not doing enough. That my best efforts are failing. That I don’t have what it takes to raise happy, productive children.
While there are voices of guilt and doubt and fear inside my mind, there are other voices out there. Voices of experience. Voices of perspective. Voices of encouragement. And if I listen to those voices (the voices of my cheerleaders) I start to recognize that this stage of my life is just as beautiful as the last one was. That I shouldn’t let one moment go by without soaking in the magic of yesterday and today and tomorrow. That I can endure my challenges and find joy in the journey.
Shakespeare penned, “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” Aren’t we fortunate that we can choose the voices to which we listen!!! Wallace Wattles (one of my favorite obscure authors) taught, “If doubt comes to you, cast it aside as a sin.” If our own thoughts are traitors, let’s cast them aside. We can choose more encouraging thoughts to heed. If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, it isn’t difficult to find those encouraging voices. And when we choose to focus on those messages (like Shakespeare implies), WE WIN!!!
The following is one of those encouraging voices that recently caught my attention. If you have a favorite thought or quote from a “cheerleader” please share it. I’ll take all the encouragement I can get.
“Many of you think you are failures. You feel you cannot do well, that with all of your effort it is not sufficient.”
“We all worry about our performance. We all wish we could do better. But unfortunately we do not realize, we do not often see the results that come of what we do.”
“You never know how much good you do.”
-Gordon B. Hinckley