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Are we parenting from the rear view mirror?

September 26, 2014

Over the past couple of weeks, the back-to-school rush has been in full swing. New schools, new milestones, new sports activities- it’s the beginning of lots of new things for our kiddos and for us as parents. My Facebook feed has been filled with first-day-of-school photos displayed by proud parents (me included). But, along with those proud and joyful moments, there’s often a hint of bittersweet regret. Our kids are growing up too fast. Where did the time go? They aren’t babies anymore. I hear and see those phrases a lot.

I can honestly say, though, that I have not felt any sadness about my daughter starting Pre-K. Not even a hint. I have, however, felt a twinge of sadness as my son’s first birthday came and went, but I’ve made a conscious decision to try not to indulge those feelings too much.

Dwelling on the past means it’s about me, not my kids

I cringe a little bit every time I hear parents lamenting the fact that their kids are growing up. Maybe it’s because I work in a children’s hospital and I’ve often seen the alternative. Some people’s children don’t get the chance to grow up, so I feel a responsibility to always remember how lucky I am that mine have that opportunity.

Of course, I know that just because someone is sad that their kids are getting older doesn’t mean they aren’t grateful. In fact, I’m sure they are very grateful. It’s just that being sad that a kid is growing up seems like the parent is mourning a loss. But for a kid, growing up isn’t a loss; it’s a great adventure. I want to join in that adventure with my kids, not wish we were somewhere else. So rather than indulge my own thoughts of what it was like to nuzzle a newborn, I would rather think about how exciting it is to teach my daughter to read or marvel at how much she’s learned about dinosaurs.

I try to remember not to make this family we’ve created all about me. I don’t want to inadvertently send the message to my children that all of my happiness is centered on them and that once they are all grown up, I’ll have nothing left. The burden of being a parent’s everything is too much for a child to carry. Instead, I’d like to join my kids on the journey and enjoy every minute I can along the way.

My kids aren’t any less awesome just because they’re older

I think some of the sadness about our kids growing older comes from missing the snuggly babies they once were. You know, before the days of temper tantrums and potty training, talking back and testing the limits. I try to remember, though, that having kids isn’t about a new baby, it’s about a whole new person coming into our lives. My kids aren’t any less wonderful because they’ve grown older. In fact, in many ways growth brings a lot of new and exciting ways to interact with our kids and allows our relationship to evolve as they grow. We get the opportunity to discover who our kids really are in ways that just aren’t possible when they are babies. There are new and exciting things that come with each new phase in a kid’s life, and let’s not forget that having a newborn was no picnic, either. We just forgot what it was like to endure midnight feedings, dirty diapers and tears from teething.

Longing for times gone by doesn’t make the memories sweeter; it makes you miss the memories you’re living right now

I have made a conscious choice in my life not to spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror. There is certainly joy to be found in reminiscing about times gone by, but there’s also a little bit of danger in spending too much time wishing for something you can’t have. No matter who you are or what choices you make in life, change is going to happen. Kids are going to grow older, and that’s a really good thing. No amount of wishing can take you backwards in time, but spending so much energy investing in the past can make you miss what’s happening right now.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     I’d rather celebrate all of the great things about where my kids are at this very moment, because the day will come when I look back with fondness about this day, too. I want to be fully present in body and mind to soak in every magical moment, every wondrous discovery and every single smile that creeps across those little faces. I wouldn’t want to miss those gems because I was looking backwards, wishing for a different time. Right now is the best time.