Like an Onion

What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one….

Because they way you grow old is kind of like an onion or the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That’s how being eleven years old is.

Sandra Cisneros
Eleven
Woman Hollering Creek

This passage from Sandra Cisneros has been on my mind lately. Especially with the September 15 tax deadline craziness and the October 15 deadline looming, Bea and I have had a lot of unbuffered interactions lately. We are alike in many ways – passionate, opinionated, thoughtful – which can lead to much of our conflict. (A glimpse into the teenage years…?) When Frank isn’t around, we often push each other’s buttons and I stoop to the level of a three year old more often than I’d like to admit.

And, when Bea’s throwing a fit and I just want her to act older, I need to remember that she’s not just three – she’s two and one and trying to process life. As a thirty-three year old, I need to model that process and show her how we react, rather than getting sucked into the drama.

Dress up (Right before things got crazy...)
Dress up (Right before things got crazy…)

I think it’s also been hard having a sweet, cooing newborn. Our comparisons to Bea are probably unfair – I go from holding an 8 pound, snuggly baby to a 30 pound whirlwind of a preschooler. We go from baby mew-cries to 3-year-old shrieks. It’s hard to make that instant shift to gracious parenting.

But, how often do I expect others to make that instant shift for me? On those days when I am feeling like a five-year-old, just figuring out routines and structure or the times when I’ve got the attitude of a tween. I need grace for myself in those moments – to recognize all the years that make me who I am – and grace for others in their moments.

We have friends with an almost-one-year-old and we were gushing about our favorite time as parents – that 6-months to two-and-a-half years range when kids are full of brand-new discoveries, from walking to talking to simply exploring the world. Our friends laughed and asked if it’s all downhill after three.

It’s not, but it’s different. The discoveries are more social skills and behaviors and life is more about figuring out opinions and autonomy. It’s fun but challenging and exhausting and the weight of parenting really hits me.

And so, as we figure out this social world and help Bea become a functioning, gracious, strong human being, I try to stop and remember all those moments that lead up to this point. The discoveries of 4 months and the amazement of 2 years and the strength of 3. As we navigate this new season, I can’t forget all the seasons that got us here.

What age do you feel today? Parents of older kids, what was your favorite age?

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9 thoughts on “Like an Onion

  1. Right this minute, I feel like a two year old who has had his tower knocked over by another child and on top of that is in need of a nap! I am grumpy and tired and also feeling the weight of parenting. I am scared that my attitude and responses to Bethany’s drawing on everything today will teach her what I try not to teach her every other day. I feel like I’m undoing a lot of good work. I just want her to grow up! But I too need to remember that these are special times. Just unbelievably frustrating today!

    1. Oh, Anna – prayers for you!! It is so tough! Hoping you find rest in the midst of chaos and joy as you find your rhythm with a strong daughter. Such an exhausting balance…

  2. I’m trying to enjoy the age we’re at right now. My son is almost 2 but very verbal and strong willed. He says silly two to three word phrases, but then throws a tantrum within the very same minute. It’s challenging for sure.

  3. I love children between the ages of 5 and 7. They are discovering so much about the world and their curious minds reminds you of what you have forgotten – excitement of discovery and the acceptance of innocence. My girls are teens now (which brings a different kind of enjoyment) but I am able to spend my days with the age group I love.

  4. Very insightful, and your best writing to date! Great to hear the honesty of not always feeling like an adult while raising children; there is so much pressure to put on the facade of having it all together. Reposting.

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