The beginning of another school year has arrived. A milestone that, for many parents, is not only a celebration but a marker of time passed. Last day of school pictures compared to first day of school pictures; record of changed favorites and aspirations; small reminders that our kids are growing up—and fast.
With one of my boys graduating preschool this year, one niece going on to junior high, and another completing her first year of high school, I was more nostalgic than usual at the end of this past year, thinking about how fast time flies.
Which got me thinking. There are quite a few bits of parenting advice I’ve received over the years that, while perhaps unsolicited in the moment, actually turned out to be true. Here are my top five:
1. “They grow up too fast.”
We’ve all heard this in one way or another: “The days are long, but the years are short,” “Time flies,” or “Don’t blink,” … you get the picture.
Whether they went up a clothing or shoe size, grew a couple of inches since their last doctor’s visit, developed a vocabulary (or attitude) that came out of nowhere, or are suddenly celebrating a huge milestone, there is no denying that there are key moments when as a parent, you feel like you blinked and everything changed.
A social media meme has been circulating that we only get 18 summers with our kids. And if you’re me, that means I’m already halfway through those summers with one of my boys. Soon, I will have had more summers with him than I have left, which is a gut punch every time I hear it.
2. “It takes a village.”
Before my family and I moved to Iowa in November 2021, we lived in Chicago for 15 years. Every member of our immediate family, from grandmas and grandpas to cousins, lived here in Iowa City. Of course, we had our local tribe of dependables, which included our former nanny, neighbors, friends who were like family, and the occasional babysitter. But we were mainly on our own.
Fast forward to now, we live near family and friends. Whether it’s having three different groups watch the boys so that my husband and I can take trips together solo, calling someone to sit with a sick child while I run to get his medicine, carpooling, or even just family members passing along hand-me-down clothes, it is not lost upon me how tough it is to raise little people and that it truly takes a village to do so.
3. “The twos are terrible,”…and so are the threes, fours, and fives.
The toddler years are not for the faint of heart. I remember with my oldest son; I couldn’t wait for him to turn the next age so we could move out of whatever phase we were in. Terrible twos, threenager, fournado…it was like I was waiting for him to wake up on his fifth birthday and be a different child. And guess what? If memory serves, he woke up with even more of an attitude as a five-year-old than ever. Now, with my youngest in the same age, I know better.
The main point here? It’s all hard. But…
4. “It gets easier.”
(Right?) Look, my kids are only eight and five, so it is with full transparency that I tell you I don’t know this to be 100 percent certain YET…but I have to believe it does get easier.
After all, that moody five-year-old is now eight, and while he is absolutely not without his challenges, he is much easier to manage than my youngest. While there are of course still daily challenges, generally speaking, it’s easier to go out to eat, travel, keep a clean house, get them to help, take them in public, etc. the older they get.
Again, it is all hard…it’s just that some parts and pieces are just harder.
5. “Enjoy every moment.”
Listen. I wrote a whole post about this on my blog when my first son was a newborn. Specifically about how we should stop saying this to moms of brand-new babies.
Right after Lent started, I published a Facebook status that said, “For Lent, I’m giving up sleep. #newmom.” It got 45 likes and several comments from commiserating and empathetic mommies and daddies, saying “Amen!” or “Piece of cake!” They got my joke. But then I saw this comment:
“I know it sounds like total BS, but you really will miss the late-night snuggling once he gets older. So although it sucks now, try to soak it up.”
And I. was furious. How dare this person insinuate that I should try to enjoy the misery I was experiencing: no sleep, cracked nipples, poop on walls, isolation, post-partum hormones, and so on.
When you are out of a stage, it’s easy to look back and say, “I wish I enjoyed that more.” But some days are truly about survival. And two things can be true – you can love your kids and really, really dislike some parts of being a parent.
So, look. I fully understand that clichés and unsolicited parenting advice are not helpful at the moment or sometimes even at all. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking I’m clueless. That’s OK.
But maybe a small part of you can appreciate the perspective of hindsight and realize there’s a small piece of you that wishes you did enjoy it all just a little bit more. Because time goes too fast. And even though the twos are terrible (and so are the threes and fours), it takes a village, and it does get easier.