They’re Only Little Once

They're Only Little Once“They’re only little once.”

Having four children under the age of six has given me a concentrated experience in the toddler/preschool years. These years have been filled with so much fun and goodness: snuggles and finger paints, first steps and sloppy kisses, pure joy at the sight of a puppy, and sincere heartbreak at saying goodbye to Grandma. These kids love fully and completely, and they share that wonderful adoration with everyone they encounter. It is beautiful and fulfilling.

And then, there’s the other side of it.

There’s the constant screaming. The battles over bedtime. The sleepless nights from teething, and the battle of tooth versus nipple. There are the days where poopy diapers feel like a deliberate punishment for any hope I previously had that I might not have to wipe another butt that day. There’s the constant cooking, the constant cleaning, and the inability to remember the last time I slept for longer than three hours. It’s the inevitability that every single kid will develop middle-of-the-night-stomach-flu when Daddy’s out of town.

It seems there is a very limited space in which the hard parts are allowed to be spoken of. With the appropriate splash of snark and quick qualification that of course, I wouldn’t trade them for anything, you can get away with a quick complaint of the difficult parts related to any stage of parenting. Particularly during this time of year where gratitude is a common topic on social media, there is a lot of pressure to focus solely on the gratitude for the good things, the easy things, related to parenting.

Here’s the thing, though: You can be grateful for the good parts of a stage of your child’s development while also having gratitude that this stage doesn’t last forever.

For those of us who have been carrying a burden of shame for not loving every miniscule aspect of parenting, this can be an immense relief. Giving yourself permission to acknowledge the things that are difficult to deal with allows the hard feelings to pass. Focusing on the gratitude that this stage, too, shall pass, allows for an emotional refocus on the light at the end of the tunnel.

There is space to love all of the wonderful parts of parenting and also love that the hard parts are not forever. “They’re only little once.” And in some ways, thank goodness for that.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

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