Monday, January 13, 2014

The Joy of Grown Children

I have written before about my children growing up and I have always had the same feeling and that is that I have loved every stage of their childhood.  With all the ups and downs of each time frame of those early years I have found great joy in the lives of my children.  This is not to say that there haven't been days of discouragement, exhaustion, worry and sometimes even some anger (it happens to all of us - no matter who you are) but along with that around the corner is always excitement, pride in our children, shouts of joy and amazement that they are actually ours!  In my opinion, motherhood is the greatest job of all. I am glad that it never ends - even though they grow up and move away!

There are wonderful swatches of life that we go through with our children and sometimes we look at others and believe that they just sail through their parenthood experience managing everything with ease. That doesn't actually happen for anyone, just so you know.  We don't see the chaos and craziness that goes on behind other people's 4 walls and so we don't see what they are struggling with.  

My beautiful baby on her blessing day.

Some of us love the baby stage and wish they would stay that way forever.  Warm, soft, dependent and so very sweet!  Every new thing a baby does stops us in our tracks and those images are etched in our memories and our hearts.  Yes there are late night feedings, dirty diapers and crying - sometimes uncontrollably but what I wouldn't give to hold one of those sweet babies again for just a moment.

The good old days . . . .

And the not so good old days.  Just trying to keep it real here as this happened every so often but again, I would love to go back to this moment in time and help him feel better.

I'm so glad we caught some of these sweet moments on film.

Then there are the toddler years and some love this time period because our children are learning to be verbally and physically interactive with us.  Their personalities really begin to develop and we start to know them as a individuals with likes and dislikes and usually that friendly bond really starts to manifest itself.  They are fun and happy to just be with us.  These are years that we can truly bond with our children because they are learning that they can trust us and they want to be close.  This doesn't last for too long sometimes so try to enjoy this time period.

My beauties!

Ah, the elementary school years are wonderful because children are so excited to learn and we have the opportunity to teach and help stretch their minds with new ideas and concepts.  What is more fun then a child coming home with a picture or test that they are just bursting to tell us about?  I have so many memories of this very occasion that I think of now and again when I am missing one of my kids.

Is there anything more cute than a little boy who bounds through the door at the end of the day with messy clothes, scruffy hair, missing a few front teeth and talking incessantly about what happened at school that day?  He describes a situation that you are trying to pay attention to while a little one squirms on your lap.  It is a long story but he thinks it is so important and the look in his eyes is one of yearning for your undivided attention.  You are trying to pay attention and show your interest but it is hard.  Stop right where you are and listen!  This is a precious moment that will not come back again and he is a pretty cool kid! He is worth your undivided attention every time he walks into the room.

I honestly didn't like the fake tree props in these pictures but she is so pretty.

Real background, real mountains.

Then there are the teenage years of middle school and high school.  These can be very tough years in many ways and depending on your child, can shape the adults that they become so it is imperative that you are actively involved with them.  Now this sounds easy but as they are getting older and busier, you are also getting older and busier and things change so don't allow these adjustments to life alter your relationships.  Stay close.  I have heard many people say don't be their friend, be their parent and it is true that children, especially teenagers, need boundaries and expectations set for them if they are to make it successfully through these years. But they do need you to be their friend too.

Ready to get out of high school.

Traveling in Europe. 

Loving the outdoors.

Talk to them often.  Have conversations, not just talking sessions where you talk about what you want them to hear from you but a back and forth discussion.  It isn't always important to get your "two cents" in but to let them know you care and are listening.  Let them express their feelings about anything and everything. This can be really hard to do - especially when it is late at night and you are exhausted from the days events but if you don't listen, who will?  I am good at addressing this subject now but when my kids were teenagers, they may not have felt this kind of attention from me.  If so, I am truly sorry for that.  They deserved better from me. Thank heavens for grandchildren so that we can have the opportunity to try and do it right a second time!

All these phases lead up to the grand finale - grown children.  Although I love all the years of mothering I have had with my children up to this point, I do think I love this one the most because it is the culmination of all of their hard work, all of our hard work as parents and the years of love, encouragement, direction, family togetherness (even when sometimes it wasn't wanted) mesh together to reveal these wonderful children - now adults in their own right.

My babies all grown up . . . .

getting married . . . .

traveling the world . . . .

and hanging out together when they can.

A few years ago at Christmas time we had all four of our kids home for the holidays and our second son was engaged to be married in the spring so we also had our future daughter-in-law with us.  It was a wonderful holiday and we had more fun than I had even planned that we should have!

One night when we were all sitting on the floor in the family room playing board games I couldn't help but just look around the room and take in each face.  It was like I could hear everything that was going on around me but I was thinking about how each of these special people had evolved in my life and what they meant to me.  I could see my happy 8 year old Matthew who has always had such a positive and upbeat attitude.  Sitting next to him was my sporty Alex who loved every kind of ball (except soccer) and was happier moving constantly rather than sitting down.  There in the circle was beautiful Jennifer with her gorgeous long curly hair and her Gingersnappy attitude!   And of course my gorgeous Elizabeth with her beautiful auburn hair and smile that match her spunky personality. 

I loved watching and listening to them converse and realized that despite the miles between us all, when we come back together as a family, we are close.  Yes, there are personality bumper cars sometimes but they are all such different people and really, I love that about them.  When we have children, we don't realize how different they all are, and yet, they are all similar in so many ways.  You can tell they are related!  

As I listened to the chattering, the teasing and the jokes being shared between my children, I felt such joy over not only the relationships that I had with them but with the relationships they had with each other. They have grown into true friends and they depend on each other. To this day they call each other with questions, to share big moments and to express support. They are moving on and starting their own families and careers now but they are still part of our family and they make sure to include us all in the ups and downs of their lives.  As a parent, I couldn't ask for more.

So enjoy your babies while they are young, appreciate the conversations they are having with you now and stay close to them when they are in those difficult years before adulthood.  You will be glad you did - and so will they!

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