Advice For New Parents: 10 Years Later, Still True
I was barely 21 years old, a newlywed, living in a new state, and pregnant for the first time.
I can remember so many times feeling like a little girl playing dress up in my Moms high heels and jewelry, like I wasn’t really an adult, I was just pretending to be one.
That season of my life was one of the most difficult I have ever experienced. So much joy came from it, but the months leading up to Ava’s arrival were brutal emotionally. I did NOT feel ready to become a mom, I had so many other plans and ideas of things I wanted to do before we started our family and it felt like they all were just slipping through my fingers.
My marriage was still so fresh and we were still learning how to communicate and be an “US.” I recently looked back over my journals from that time and so many emotions just came rushing back. Reading those entries full of fear and uncertainty and worry just broke my heart.
I wished I could somehow travel back in time and tell that younger version of myself that I was beginning the most amazing adventure in becoming a mother. That my marriage would flourish and we would learn to love and serve each other in new ways. That I would eventually realize the struggle I was constantly having internally wanting to be “enough” for the people around me wouldn’t matter any more. I wish I could tell that version of myself that one day I would wish for it all back.
Luckily for me, there was a moment right before our sweet girl was born that changed how I would view motherhood forever.
It was a few weeks before my due date and a couple from our new church was hosting a baby shower for us. We were so thankful, because, well, we were young and broke and it was the only way we were able to get all the things we needed. (Can I get an amen?!) There were so many people there - new faces from our new church, family that came into town, and friends… at the end of the party I was walking my Grandfather out, thanking him for coming to celebrate with us when he turned and told me some of the best advice for new parents I’ve ever received.
He said to me,
“Now Samantha, I want to tell you something. I know you hear people say that your kids grow up quickly and you should enjoy it. But, what you need to remember is that, if you’re lucky, you will get 16 summers. 16 summers with this baby before she’s off doing her own thing or working or just uninterested in whatever trip or activity you may have planned. That’s not very long. Start out with this in mind, and you will never take those summers for granted.”
After we said our goodbyes I remember walking back up the driveway into the house and thinking to myself that 16 just isn’t a big enough number. Later that night when Daniel and I got home, after all the shower gifts were unloaded, and he was so sweetly rubbing my VERY swollen feet, I told Daniel what my Grandfather had told me. Daniel had the same terrified look in his eyes that I’m sure I did when I heard the advice. We just sat there looking at each other, realizing the gravity and truth in what my Grandfather had shared.
We committed to each other in that moment that we would do whatever it took to soak up every moment and be as intentional as possible with our kids. The weight of that advice has stayed with us over the last 10 years.
Years later, after a few more babies joined the family, we were sharing that same advice for new parents with another family but we were shocked by their lack of astonishment.
For us, that sentiment carried so much weight we just assumed all parents would feel the same way. I can’t remember what exactly was said by the other couple but it was something to the effect of not wanting to miss out on other opportunities, and their kids don’t care and they’d rather be with their friends, so they just let them sort of do their own thing.
Daniel looked at them and said,
“No one will get to their kid’s graduation and think, ‘Dang it, man!!! I spent too much time with my kid!’”
That’s just not what happens!! Every parent experiences the same emotional punch to the gut when their kids graduate. Parents are always in shocked disbelief at how fast the time really did go. Daniel and I walked away from that conversation and further committed to each other that we have to be intentional when it comes to the time we have with our children. And here we are 10 years into our journey as parents and we are in disbelief that so much time has gone by! We are so thankful we made these values a priority in our family and only wish we could do more to soak up these years with our little Family Band.
Some of the practical steps we’ve taken to help us treasure and value these years are:
Homeschooling our children
Working from home
Sacrificing in some areas so we can afford family trips to places like Disneyland.
Doing spontaneous things at least once a week
Daniel and I continue to make an intentional focus to savor moments with our kids. We do what we can every day to slow down the pace of our life because we know that 16 summers will come and go before we’re ready. We’re painfully aware that when the time comes for our kids to go off to college we will never feel like we had enough time.