Claire Hailwood urges you to enjoy every moment as you handle the key moments of transition in your parenting journey
Tomorrow I’m gearing up for my 13th year of ‘those’ first day of term pictures (in a garden or against a wall). It began with my eldest’s first day at preschool with three other permanent additions along the way to the picture and various precious kids joining temporarily.
My eldest is a late August baby so she was just four and four days when she started school. I wept at the prospect of her being in school. I held it together with her at drop off then I had to take a long walk after to process my grief. At each of those early milestones, particularly with my first two children, I felt and wrote that I wished ‘time would stop’ – I’d be sad about the passing of time, I’d wish there was a way to reverse time or somehow pause it.
What I would say to my younger parenting self is that it is possible to miss moments of our children being little – the smell of a newborn, their cute mis-sayings as they learn to talk, being able to dress them to match (not a chance in over a decade in this house!) AND looking forward to, revelling in, being excited for what’s to come.
I got caught up a bit too much in the collective sadness and ‘I wish they wouldn’t grow up’ and missed the chance sometimes to be excited for what’s to come, to wonder about the opportunity of the new, with and for them (and me), what new ‘firsts’ would come and (honestly) what new freedom or opportunities I may have?
All the children we’ve raised have been stinking cute as little ones. I have countless memories that I love returning to – my photos app occasionally ambushes me with reminders of smaller versions of my children ‘on this day’ a decade ago. There are times when I wish I could open a bottle to experience a moment again. There are times when I feel grief for those moments or elements of times that have passed.
That’s OK. In fact that’s right to feel, acknowledge, remember and process.
Nostalgia is not what it used to be…
But if it’s only that, it’s only half the story. The danger is that we hanker after the ‘good old days’ and miss being present today or looking to what’s to come.
Because those cute pics of matchy matchy outfits or various children on days out when they were younger also remind me of how tired I was, of the challenges there were in that season (whatever the age!), how there never seemed to be enough of me to go round.
Rose tinted glasses aren’t helpful for our present or to remember what’s come before.
I’d tell my younger parenting self to breathe in all the moments. To delight and be present in each of them. To write down the memories (how I wish I’d written down more of the cute things they said), to take the pictures, say the words, savour the memories.
AND speak to the potential and future. To the fullness of what’s to come and the possibility of what this next season would bring. To actively consider the positives of a new school year, of change, of transition. Not in a way that pretends or is deluded, but because in every season there is opportunity.
Ecclesiastes says ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens’ and then lists some of the beautiful and sometimes painful rhythms of life.
Just as the rhythm of each day is consistent from sunrise to sunset, so the coming and going of seasons (though different around the globe) happens. So there’s a rhythm and seasons in our lives too. Our creator, our designer made it so.
So when I resist and want to freeze time I’m leaning out of the way He designed me to be. And that’s not a place I want to be in.
We have a tradition to go out for dinner on the first day of school at a place of the kid’s choosing, from McDonalds to Pizza Hut we’ve been to many high end places…What we intentionally try and do around this particular dinner table is have conversation about the things we’ve loved to this point, the memories and the challenges AND what could be different this year – what are the things that this year offers that previous ones haven’t, what potential is there, how have we or could we change. Truthfully, most of the chat will largely be nonsense and silly (just wanting to keep it real!) but in amongst that will be moments of clarity and poignancy that I’ll remember.
I want to help them learn (as I continue to) that it’s possible to move through transition in a way that remembers, holds, grieves AND gets excited, looks ahead and wonders..You can do both simultaneously in the tension of it all.
I’m going to try and remember that tomorrow as I take the yearly photo, especially as more participants each year use the opportunity to demonstrate how far back into their heads their eyes can roll…