I was talking to another parent recently about the different phases of childhood. We both have children who are about five years old, but I also have an infant. She confessed that having been through the development of her five year old, she could not imagine starting over with all that a baby entails – the diapers, bottles, interrupted sleep, and crying. I sympathized with her, but I had to admit that my experience was quite different. With my first child, every phase of development felt big and overwhelming. I worried and fretted about how to meet each new challenge and how to adjust my life for each stage. Only once a new phase started could I look back and appreciate what had actually been quite nice about the previous stage.
But with the second child, I am finding not a sense of overwhelmedness, but of familiar joy. Though these first months have rough moments, I also now know that these first months have parts that are especially easy. An infant does not need as much entertainment now as a child much older needs. An infant can be left to her own devices for a short time without having to worry that she will crawl or walk around and get into something. An infant does not feel irritated by long cuddles – in fact, she quite enjoys them. Of course, there are many things that are easier at age five than they are at three months. But what I am finding as a second-time parent is that by knowing how each phase changes your life, for good and for ill, I feel a lot more calm about the transitions and appreciative of the little gifts along the way.
What this second child has gifted me with is the invitation to be present. She is reminding me that life evolves and changes, and I can either fret about and rigorously prepare for that – or I can simply be present in the moment, enjoying what today has to offer. She has given life to that passage from Ecclesiastes which says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” (3.1)
Of course my daughter has opened up this verse to me about parenting, but I know that this verse has truth for each stage of our adult life too. As I have been praying on this verse, I have been in conversation with God about what season I am in, and what purposes God has for me right now. That is not an easy conversation. Many of us are so busy planning and doing, that we rarely take a moment to breathe in this “season,” and thank God for it. We only have the gifts and challenges of this season of life once. What purpose has God put you to this season? How might you find and celebrate the joys of this season today?