In the early days of motherhood, advice and words of encouragement are easy to come by. There are two in particular that I tend to pass along to my new mom friends, or you know, the random pregnant girl in the diaper aisle at Target: 1) it’s totally OK if you don’t love it all the time, and 2) don’t worry, it’s just a phase.
For me, the phase one was key to my survival mentally. Somehow telling myself that the seemingly endless bouts of crying would eventually stop, even if I didn’t fully believe it, was reassuring. The early days are really just a mashup of random phases and figuring out how to adjust to them at rapid fire pace. As your newborn turns into a toddler turns into a legit little kid; the phases slowly elongate and lines become blurred so much that sometimes you don’t even realize you’ve hit the next phase until it smacks you in the face.
As the mother of a five year old, who is starting kindergarten this fall, this happened to me on one fateful day as I picked him up from daycare. He was crying because he had gotten in trouble for hitting a friend. With little sister on my hip and bags weighing me down, I decided to hold off until we got in the car and snacks were passed out before I asked him what had happened. When I did, the answer I got was not what I expected. Sure he had hit his friend and he knew that it was wrong, but he had done it because “everyone else was planning to do something, too.”
This…this took by surprise. Apparently, this happy little daycare playground had suddenly morphed into a scene from Lord of the Flies. Jack wouldn’t reveal who held the conch that day, but it didn’t matter. The innocence of the early days seemed to be slipping away from me before I had a chance to read a bunch of books telling me how to respond. I resisted the urge to blurt out, “well if your friends all jumped off a bridge would you, too?!” and instead did my best to explain that he is responsible for his actions, no one else. We need to treat everyone with kindness and respect, and remind our friends who are telling us to do something mean that it isn’t OK.
Of course the rest of the night I questioned whether or not I had said enough, taught him enough, and shown him enough of what it means to be respectful and kind to others. I know this moment is small in comparison to situations to come, which only makes me more anxious as these phases morph into more challenging ones.
Recently I find myself gravitating toward my two year old daughter, who is still learning colors and shapes and the ABCs, because to me it’s simpler. That phase I know, that phase I can handle. My son is in this complicated yet wonderful phase of growth and learning and everything around him seems to hold a treasure trove of questions waiting to be answered. This phase is harder. With this phase of learning comes difficult questions, questions I’m not always sure how to answer. In the last couple of months we’ve tackled birth, death, and how the earth orbits around the sun. These questions can be heavy, and don’t always have easy answers for a five year old.
While I’m excited to watch him grow into a young man, I worry that I’ll fall short in what I want to teach him as his mother. I think of all the things I want him to know and understand, and I wonder if I’m capable of it. I guess maybe this is just the phase I’m in, one of doubt and worry. The question is, does it ever really go away? I guess I’ll find out when the next phase smacks me in the face.