Stuck in Neverland

I saved the tears for the car. In the back of the library parking lot, I banged my head on the steering wheel. We were never going to make it through a story time. She was never going to sit still. We were just going to be those people who never go to the library. And she was certainly never going to survive at preschool.

I was stuck in Neverland. But it wasn’t the fairy tale kind, it was more like a desert stretching as far as I could see.

With an energetic, strong-willed firstborn, there have been a lot of nevers in my head over the years. She’s never going to walk next to the cart in the store. She’s never going to sit through a meal in a restaurant. She’s never going leave a friend’s house without a tantrum. Sit through church? Never going to happen.

Of course, she has done all those things, eventually. But when you fight the same battle over and over and over, and it seems like you’re going nowhere, it feels like never. And never feels long. It feels like failure.

This baby is never going to sleep through the night.

This kid is never going to be potty trained.

She is never going to stay in her bed at night.

I am never going to leave the house on time.

She is never going to get dressed without a battle.

I can’t tell you how to succeed in three simple steps at any of those things even though I’ve passed through them multiple times. But I can say keep going. It’s easy to feel never, but don’t get stuck there. It feels so big, especially with your first child; never is all you can see with the same struggles day after day. But without struggles, there are no gains.

It’s tiring. I was sorely tempted to never take that little girl on an errand again ever. Training her to walk next to the cart was hard, and it would have been easier to just give up and avoid the whole situation. But we kept going. And she grew, and I grew. It just took a lot longer than I thought.

And I can also say celebrate. I don’t remember the first time she was able to sit through story time, but honestly I was probably sighing and thinking, “Finally, it’s about time she did,” instead of celebrating the moment with joy.

There are always new battles, new nevers, so when the old nevers become dids, sometimes I don’t even notice because I’m busy fighting the new battles. I don’t want to miss them any more, for my sake and for theirs. I want to battle and celebrate at the same time.

What are our new battles right now? One child is never going to pick up after herself without whining. Another is never going to take No without a fight. And one is never going to talk intelligibly.

The end is not in sight on these things. It’s tiring. But with experience, I can un-stick myself from Neverland faster. My circumstances haven’t changed, I just remind myself to keep going and be ready to celebrate.

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