Appreciating the Journey
This was a requested topic that I'm finally writing. This is a tough one for many parents and one I've struggled with myself. We often get so caught up with the mundane necessary tasks of parenting that we forget to enjoy ourselves and take joy in our children. It's mind boggling how fast they grow up. We go into parenthood thinking that we have so much time. Then, we blink, and they're going out into the world. It often leaves us wondering what happened to all of those years. The older we get, the faster time goes racing by. I noticed that with my third child, who came much later than his two siblings and have been noticing it again with my grandchildren. I finally realized that time seemed to go by quicker when I was older because as each year passed, it was a smaller percentage of my whole life. When I was twenty, ten years was half of my life. Now, it's less than a sixth of my life.
I was a stay-at-home mother with my first two then a teacher working in a school where my third child was with me all day. I had lots of time with them, and it still didn't feel like enough. With each of my three children, I lamented the things I didn't do, the things I didn't teach them or the things I didn't say. With the first two, I worried about keeping up with my house. It was never spotless because I did realize how important it was to spend time with them while they were young. I figured I could have a clean house later in my life. But, it did bother me. I would feel embarrassed when people came to visit, so I would yell at everyone about their messes. That was not an enjoyable part of the journey. Because my husband and I had decided to have me stay home instead of getting a job, we were dirt poor. He didn't have a degree or much training in anything. He worked in restaurants which was a thankless and stressful job. I took on odd jobs that I could do at home, babysitting, making and selling crafts, giving music lessons, whatever I could find. Life was stressful, and we fought a lot. We certainly were not enjoying that part of the journey either.
However, I did enjoy my time spent with my kids. I took them on field trips, read to them, played games, cultivated their imaginations, took them swimming throughout the summers, sang and danced and was always available to listen to them. I felt badly that they didn't have things that their friends had, but they insisted it was okay. As adults, they told me that they never felt as though we were poor. That was gratifying and a huge relief. They always had a roof over their heads, food and clothing. I always figured out how to take them to occasional movies, and we went to every free event there was. We had a wide circle of friends and went to and hosted social events with them - potlucks, parties and music jams. We were rich in other ways, and I can see now how valuable that was.
Did I enjoy the journey? Mostly, yes I did. Sometimes I got caught up in what I felt I was supposed to be doing or feeling guilty about our poverty, the condition of my house or my moods. I went through periods of time when I was very stressed out and through periods of depression, though that never lasted long because I always tried to appreciate what I had. I tried not to let those times affect my children, but I know it did. I realize now that every child will go through their trials, and many of those trials will be because of us. It's okay. That's part of what makes them strong. If they never have struggles, they'll never learn to survive them.
I learned that the times I wasn't enjoying the journey were the times that I listened to others and let my feelings of inadequacy take over. Left on my own, I enjoyed every moment of time with my kids. I enjoyed foraging for wild foods and looking for signs of fairies and gnomes. I enjoyed cooking and baking. I even enjoyed the Christmas when we had no money for presents and I decided that we would only give gifts that we made or found. That was one of the best holidays ever. We spent so much time thinking about each family member and appreciating not only the journey but each other.
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