Your kids’ best stage

In his victory speech, President Obama said, “The best is yet to come”, which is the inspiring sort of stuff politicians (or their speech writers) come up with to shift your gaze from a rotten present to a better future. Hope is good, especially when your current reality stinks – a better day is coming. Parents often get exasperated with the present and look forward to something better, especially a stage that will give them more freedom.

I can’t wait until they:

  • sleep through the night
  • walk
  • feed themselves
  • go to kindy
  • go to school
  • leave school
  • get married
  • have kids themselves.

I didn’t say that. I was always very happy with each stage my children were at. I probably bored my wife by repeatedly saying, “This is the best stage.” Every stage of childhood has got challenges and drudgery, but every stage also has delightful aspects as well. I can guarantee when your children are grown and you look at pictures of them as babies you will not say, “Oh, the pooey nappies! Yuck.” Babies cry, vomit down your back, have endless colic and earache, and do nothing useful around the house – but aren’t they just gorgeous?

I watched a video with my wife at the maternity hospital after my now 21 year old was born. It was about breastfeeding and baby care, and I recall a scene when the dad arrived home and the mum was surrounded by mess and chaos. She apologised for not doing much around the house, because she had spent so much time just cuddling and nursing the baby. With a saintly smile the dad said, “Don’t worry, you’ve done the best thing.” It was corny and saccharin and dead right.

I hope that wherever you are on your parenting journey, you take time to pause and just enjoy your kids, as they are, right now. They are only going to be like this for the briefest of moments. Next month they will be bigger, smarter and possibly better in many ways, but until then, they are just fine. Your reward for all your hard work is that you get to be there with them today, the only day in their life when they will be exactly this age. Don’t rob yourself of it. You might have a hundred important things on your ‘to-do’ list today, but if you don’t get to have a cuddle with your child, smile at them, enter into their world to see what they see and just spend time with a sense of gratitude in your heart, then you have neglected the most important things of all.

It sometimes takes a conscious effort of the will to see the gold beneath the dross in your current situation, and to appreciate each moment with each child as a treasure. But even if your kids are being stroppy and hard to handle, at least go through when they are asleep and drooling on their pillow and go, “Aww.” You might genuinely have the most difficult children in the district, but there would still be thousands of childless couples who would be very happy to swap places with you. Parenting is a privilege denied to many. Relax and enjoy your kids. Today.