Nothing Has Been Lost; It Has Been Replaced

How I am learning to embrace every stage of childhood

In the beginning, I loved being a mom so much! I embraced motherhood with my whole heart, and when it came, I was lucky enough and smart enough to enjoy each moment as much as I could. With my boys came a joy larger than any I had ever known.

I just loved goofing and dreaming with them. I love imagination, and I adored creating worlds and games with them. I loved going to the park, visiting flowers, hunting for bunnies and playing with friends. I soaked in their squeals as they held their first bug or blew the fluff on their first dandelion. Watching them make new discoveries sustained me.

Recently, I have felt like motherhood had lost a lot of its sheen. I feel like being a good mom now that my kids are older often entails a lot of stuff I don’t like. It’s helping them get homework done. Teaching them manners. Intervening in fights. Letting them fail. Letting them struggle sometimes. Pushing them to try their hardest. Encouraging independence. Setting limits. These are all incredibly important things, but I have felt, sometimes, like motherhood had lost some of the joy of those early years.

I have been aching for the happiness of those early days of play and discovery.

It’s about watching for the next thing that you will love. One phase replaces another.

I have realized, too, though, that what might seem mundane or even annoying can still have joy in it. I am trying to remember that those old joys have not been lost, they have just been replaced.

For example, the lunches of my first days of full-time motherhood consisted of my baby and I in a quiet kitchen. I listened to Fresh Air with Terry Gross as we silently ate together. I was so excited to meet his personality. What would he sound like when he could talk? What would he love? Hate? Care about? I tucked away each new revelation and began to piece his puzzle together.

Those quiet early days have been replaced by a lunch spent with two big kids. Silence isn’t really a part of my life anymore. Now we ask each other questions, gossip, make plans, negotiate, laugh and fight. But amazing things are happening in those questions or plans or fights. I watch Emmett teach Nate things and Nate teach Emmett things.

Spending time with them again this summer has reminded me that I haven’t lost anything in motherhood. It’s not about losing something that you loved in them. It’s about watching for the next thing that you will love. One phase replaces another.

The other night we sat outside on the top of our hill and watched a lightning storm. Those are rare here in Seattle, and the boys were amazed by how gorgeous it was. The three of us stayed up late snuggling outside, talking about it. What makes lightning? Why does it look like it does? Is it scary or exciting? How far away is it?

Then we talked about how volcanoes can trigger lightning flashes during eruptions. That morphed into a conversation about super volcanoes. That morphed into a discussion about Yellowstone National Park. Nate then told us he wants to be a park ranger there someday, which morphed into Emmett discussing his plans for the future. Those are my new beautiful moments. These are our new discoveries. Instead of piecing their puzzle together, I have the privilege of watching them work to sort it out themselves.

I have to keep my eyes open for these times, but they are just as beautiful as snuggling a newborn. A moment like the other night can be just as special as watching a toddler making discoveries. There is as much joy in those moments if I stop myself and remember to soak it in.

This is parenting: The ebb and flow may change, but the themes are the same. We are constantly teaching, listening, watching, helping or not helping as need be. Their lives are in constant motion, and our lives ride those currents. I am 10 years into this parenting gig; 10 years is a good, long while. Long enough to see patterns. Long enough to feel changes and notice the passage of time. I have begun to recognize the replacements, and I am trying to stop and celebrate them.

This summer reminded me that the new conversations we have and the new things that they figure out are just as joyful as our early days together. Those conversations are new discoveries. Our job as parents is to never take those moments for granted. They may look or seem mundane, but they are far from it. Nothing has been lost. It has been replaced.

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