Linda and her husband, Richard, have raised nine exceptional and strong-willed children (five sons, four daughters, no twins, all genetically theirs…just to get all the questions out of the way). Linda is an accomplished author and co-founder of Joy Schools. You can learn more about Linda at ValuesParenting.

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It’s a Stage

It’s summer and three of our married daughters and a daughter-in-law have been home for a mini reunion. One daughter has been here for three weeks with her two little children under two to escape the oppressive heat in Boston where she lives and to avoid losing her mind! Her six month adorable baby boy with a gorgeous open-mouthed grin during the day will NOT sleep at night!

The mental energy used trying to figure out why and what to do is totally exhausting. She first thought he was hungry and fed him when he woke up, which in the end, she thinks, just taught him to continue waking up for comfort and attention. She read everything available on the internet and from parenting gurus and asked advice from everyone she knew and couldn’t find anything that provided her a good night’s sleep. After letting him cry it out for a few nights, he got a cold and couldn’t breathe very well, so of course, she was in the room comforting him the minute he started coughing. After that she put him right next to her at night and plugging him up with a pacifier as soon as he made a peep so he’d hopefully not wake up all the way. But after doing that for a couple hours and realizing that she was only buying 5 minutes of sleep or so with each pacifier plug, she started feeling pretty darn frustrated. Desperate, wild-eyed and sleep-deprived in the middle of the night, she determined that she was just going to let him cry it out no matter how long it took. The next morning he popped out with his first tooth and she felt like a terrible mother thinking that he must have been in pain. Then a few nights later, when he finally was sleeping great, some people next door shot off fireworks starting at 3:30 a.m. and even though he slept, she didn’t! The next night he woke up, fussed for a while and went right back to sleep. The next night the family moved to a new location and the process started all over again. Life is so unfair!

Last night our older daughters were laughing about the days when they were in her position. One who had twins last year (in addition to a five year old, a three year old and a 2 year old) remembered those zombie days with a shudder. She’s still rushing in to shush a baby some nights – worried about letting him cry in case he’ll wake up his brother. Our conversation about issues with their other children included talking about a child who was struggling with telling the truth, two who had been unkind to another cousin and not included him in their games, and social issues with a child who was struggling to fit in at school and breaking his mother’s heart as she watched. It all brought back floods of memories of our own children’s childhoods. We could claim not only every one of those problems, but myriads more as our children progressed through their stages of life.

Shakespeare proclaimed: “All the world is a stage…and all the men and women merely players.” I’d like to add that every child who ever lived is going through some sort of
”stage” on that stage as they progress through their childhoods. There was the “writing on the walls” stage for our oldest, the thumb sucking stage that lasted through kindergarten for another. One sixteen month old spent most of his time looking for open bathroom doors so he could climb right into the toilets. Most kids are happy just unraveling miles of toilet paper but this kid was not satisfied until he was sitting in the toilet, using the toilet seat for his “inner tube” ring, usually fully dressed often complete with leather shoes and making a wonderful toilet-plunger sucking noise with his little bottom. For six months I woke up in horror wondering which of our children might have forgotten to close a bathroom door. The best part of this story is that years later, I was writing a story about this particular incident in our lives and I couldn’t remember which child was the bathroom marauder! I had to call one of the other kids to help me recall that it was Noah. NOAH! How could I forget that…something so obvious considering the Ark, water and all! Through it all I’ve learned that not only do you forget those hard times, but so do your children. It is truly a tender mercy!

My sister has a plaque in her front entry that says, “Being a mother is like being pecked to death by a duck!” I love that because it brings a giggle and helps to be able to take ourselves a little more lightly. I also love Scott Peck’s introductory sentence to his famous The Road Less Traveled. He says something like: “Life is hard. Once you get used to that idea, it gets a lot easier”. Yes motherhood is hard! It is full of stages for you…and each individual child. When you’re all in a “stage” at once you do feel as though you’re being pecked to death by a duck!

However, DO NOT DESPAIR! The hard times are the refiner’s fire that helps you know yourself, control your anger (at times), learn to deal with difficult situations and survive and discover that children are all individuals with “stages” that are always “interesting” and certainly challenging. In the process you become a therapist in your own right.

The day to day may seem impossible during some “stages” but keeping your eye on the long range goal of becoming who you were meant to be while helping your children to get through their trials and reach their potential is the most important thing you will every do. Those “stages” are the stepping stones to getting where you want to be, so make the most of them! Plan on hard things happening every day and maybe life will get a little easier. Write down your dilemmas and how they evolve and how you solve them. It may help you sort things out now, but it will also be invaluable to your child’s child who may be just like him in an unbelievably short few years. Hang in there mom! Soon this stage will be just a memory and you’ll be on to the next one.

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