Parenting is All About Seasons

Just about a year ago, our sons had just started playing together. Not playing with intermittent fighting, not playing with mom refereeing, but REALLY playing together-- imaginations running wild, rules and games that only the two of them know, building things side by side, wrestling like young lions... what a blast! I remember what a relief this was for me as a mom of three kids five & under-- that they could occupy themselves happily for longer stretches of time. It is still a great joy to me to hear and see our sons enjoying each other's company and learning together through large portions of each day.

A few months ago, I was dealing with a four year old who politely talked back and a seven month old who was eating dirt on a semi-regular basis. :) Now, just a few months later, my four-year-old is learning self-control and is learning to express his desires respectfully, and my eleven-month-old is walking. So he has better things to do than eat dirt now.

This is a very rambly way of saying that this business of parenting changes like seasons. Some seasons last longer than others. Some seasons are easy, some are sweet. Some are rough, and some pass quicker than you'd like. Some are fun, and some you just do what you have to to get through. But it's all about seasons. And just about the time I get "used to" a certain season, it's gone.

For me, flexibility and a willingness to keep on learning are essential. I have to be willing to flex with the times... for example, letting less crucial things go when there's too much to do, or taking on new challenges when they arise.

Six years ago, for me, life was all about Babywise & breastfeeding. Then, I focused in on making baby food from scratch (which, like breastfeeding, seemed so difficult at the time, but is now second nature). Next up was learning & researching biblical discipline. Then managing more than one child. Then within a couple years, I was researching homeschooling in a general way. Then I began looking at specific curricula and methods. Two years ago, I began homeschooling (while disciplining a 2 year old and nursing a new baby) and started hearing about cloth diapering.

Now, I'm reading about educational theories, researching differences between boys & girls, and starting to learn about parenting older children and adolescents, while continuing to do most of those things in the last paragraph. But those things aren't near as taxing and many of them don't require the careful attention that they did when I first started doing each thing.

If we as moms are willing to keep learning, then those things that we learn will benefit not only that first child, but any subsequent children that come along. And we can keep adding to that knowledge and getting better in each area as time passes.

What I'm driving at is this:

(1) No one just "zaps" into being capable as a mother all at one time. (And I'm not trying to act like I have it all together, by any means... but even those things that I do have "together" didn't happen all at once!) It comes over time-- God doesn't just *ZAP* you into a woman who knows how to homeschool, breastfeed, handle tantrums, offer hospitality, and make your own babyfood (or whatever kind of women you are or will be)... it happens over time. Like Sarah said SO eloquently expressing this very idea,
Somehow, in our six short years of parenting, we have learned to be productive despite little hands and feet getting in the way. We have grown in patience and ability.
You get better at things the more you do them... and things that were once difficult become second nature and no longer seem as monumental as they did the first or even second go rounds.

And... (2) in parenting seasons, things wax and wane. Some things come and go over and over (like breastfeeding, tantrums, and teaching the alphabet). Some of these are things that you learn once and never have to re-learn (like how to make your own babyfood or use cloth diapers... if you ever want to learn in the first place, LOL), some things have to be adjusted as you go (like teaching different students), and some things may be totally new (particularly tackling new developmental stages with that first guinea pig child). But the pressures and demands wax and wane-- parenting is an adventure!

Truly, children are a blessing-- and God uses the seasons of parenting to refine and discipline us. So take heart! If you are a new mom or in a new season, what you are learning now will benefit you later... and God will use it to sharpen, shape, and sanctify you. He is faithful to gently lead young mothers, and He will be faithful to lead you if you look to Him.


Anonymous said...

It's so important to be flexible and sensitive to the differences among your children. Even if none of your children seems to have "special needs," they all have their unique personalities and may need particularly intense parental involvement and supervision at certain developmental stages.

My parents raised five kids and understood that while some parenting issues are universal, every child is different. What worked well to discipline one child may not work with the next. A naptime routine that worked with three children may not work with the fourth. One may enjoy learning to play chess with Dad at age 5, another may be ready to start learning a musical instrument at that time.

My first child started crawling six weeks before he could sit up unassisted. It went against everything I had read about typical developmental stages for a baby, but it was a healthy reminder for me that my baby was learning in his own way.

Meeting every child's needs does not necessarily mean treating every child the same. I think some parents get too caught up in measuring out the attention they are giving each child to make sure they are being "fair."

Laurie B

Rachel said...

A good and fair post, Jess. I wholeheartedly agree.

Laura said...

It's funny you should mention this, Jess! A friend and I were just recently talking about the weird season she's in with her three girls -- a baby just learning to walk, a preschooler, and a kindergartner -- that's causing some toy-related chaos around their house! Baby toys and books, preschool toys and books, and school-age toys and books... it all adds up pretty fast.

This is a good reminder for everyone, I think. Even I as a single gal need to remember that where I am right now isn't where I was a year ago, and it's not where I'll be a year from now.

Blessings, friend!

Liz said...

I love this, as always, Jess! A friend of mine told me when my oldest, who is five today, was 1 or two - "There are seasons in discipline - sometimes you're sowing and sometimes you're reaping."

That thought has helped me make it through many difficult seasons. . . parenting is such experiential learning. I'm always wanting to prepare young moms that I mentor - before they make mistakes that I made, but some of motherhood has to be discovered, and experienced, then learned.

As I'm graduating from all things toddler, I've began to feel that nervous, "can I do this?" feeling - I didn't know I'd have that again.

Thanks for the encouragement!

WendyLou said...

A beautiful and TIMELY post. Thanks for the encouragement to keep on keepin' on ;-)

Hannah. said...

True. Thanks for putting it in print ;)

Kasey said...

Thank you so much for this post. I'm a first time mom of a 10 month old, and I often get bogged down with my daily struggles (frequent night waking, breastfeeding struggles, etc.) and think that I'm going to be stuck at this stage forever. Thanks for the encouragement!

Anonymous said...

My two oldest children are 13 years apart. Somehow my memories faded over that time and I didn't remember how difficult a little one could be sometimes. I've had to step back and reassure myself that I'm doing okay. It's not easy to go from highschool-level subjects to changing a diaper in the matter of seconds. The needs and desires are worlds apart. It's so easy to be hard on myself, when the most important thing is that I'm home with them and spending time with them is more important to me than keeping the house spotless.

Mrs. Lindblom said...

Thank you. I needed this today.

Alice said...

Thank you for this very wise and helpful post! I don't think I have commented here before, but I have been reading for a while. I especially appreciated the link back to the previous post in November (the eating dirt and talking back one!).

I have three little boys, aged 4, 2.5 and 13 months, and I'm halfway through a pregnancy with another baby boy. Right now I feel overwhelmed a lot of the time! The behaviour of my older two is what makes things feel so impossible most of the time, and I struggle to know what on earth to do about it. They both exhibit behaviour that means training is waaaay necessary by now, but I have no idea how to do it, step-by-step. I keep thinking, what if they just say no? What if they run off laughing (they do this a lot) and I can't physically haul them back. Lately I lose my temper with them so easily when they won't do as I ask, and I don't want that taking root. I can see clearly that I need to TRAIN them, and I have been and read Raising Godly Tomatoes several times but still feel a bit lost as to how to start, and then what to do immediately after I've started, when the first hurdle arrives, etc. I feel too overwhelmed by it to start, but then the problems continue (and multiply, actually).

Anyway, I just meant to say, your blog is very helpful and encouraging to me. I really appreciate your words!

I also LOVE the photo of your little boy in this post where he has his tongue sticking out with concentration! So cute! :)

I love that you point to Jesus, point to Jesus, point to Jesus. That is SO HELPFUL! I started reading a book of the Bible per month this year, inspired by your idea, and I'm thankful for that too, because I was really not getting my Bible reading time in before that. Thank you!

Trinity Mommy said...

A beautiful post! I need to remember that these "seasons" last but a moment... I need to pause and enjoy every one of them!

Susan said...

I so appreciate your blog and it's the first of its type that I've encountered. By "it's type," I mean one written by a focused, serious Christ-following woman/wife/mom whose purpose is to glorify God in all she does within her home and family interatcions. I am mother to a 3 yr old boy and a 18-month old girl and am 15 weeks pregnant with our third. Over the past six months since our son neared three, my husband (of 10 years) and I have delved deeply into what raising up our children biblically really means... And also what it means to be called to build and anchor a godly home that honors the Lord. The process has been eye-opening and amazing, and the chasm between our culture and the Word is enormous. I have been reflecting deeply and praying about these a great deal and have sought other like-minded women with whom I can hash some of this out. Finding few, I have begun to informally do some of my own writing on these issues (I do some writing of my own).
Anyway, in this vein your blog has been a breath of fresh air and an answer to prayer. I am going back to your earliest posts in Sept '06 and plan to read right through to the present.
It's apparent to me that you see your writing and reflections in this arena as a minsitry to others, and it is that. You have wisdom, clarity, and humility - and you write well. I thank God you have pursued this calling diligently as well as your family-oriented callings as well.
I have read or am reading a number of the same books you list, and I am an avid Mark Driscoll listener myself. All the more ways I can relate to you!
(I consult very part-time to Christian nonprofits and continue to work from home about 6 hours per week. The URL I share with you below provides, via links at the bottom, some of the writing I've done for a Christianity Today website - just for your interest in case it is of interest.)
Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

We have a mutual friend (Steph. Cald.) and she introduced me to your blog when I had questions about homeschooling. I have enjoyed reading your insights and decided to let you know how much I appreciate you sharing your life with others!
I do have a question which you may have answered in a previous blog entry??? I have been encouraged and challenged to teach my children to memorize scripture and wondered if you have any creative ideas to share about this topic?
Thank you again for your time!
Julie B. (Little Rock, AR)

Jess said...

Hey Julie,
Thanks so much! Yes I did do a post about that a while back... lemme find it. :)

OK, in the comments section of THIS post, I explain our basic approach for memorization-- with the basic "creativity" we use:

And then here's one called "Family Devotions Play-by-Play":

And here's one about filling our homes with the Word of God:

These each have a little something to say about what we do about memorizing as a family. The amazing thing (to me) has been to realize that all of our kids are taking it in at their own level... our 6 year old knows and is able to enunciate and understand all of it pretty well. Our 4 year old says most of the words "right" now and understands as we explain the meanings of what we're learning each night. Our 2 year old says some of the words, here and there, with inflection and delight... she doesn't understand much, but it's getting implanted in her heart and mind nonetheless, and she's bonding with her family and having a good time to boot. :) It has been very eye-opening to me to see how much *I* can memorize because I have that motivation to help them learn these things and put them in their hearts as well.

It's an exciting thing, and I hope this helps!

Keriann said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! My husband and I have three 3 and under and everyday is an adventure. We have been going through one of those difficult seasons and this was the encouragement I needed.

Have a blessed day, Jess :)


mindy said...

Thank you, Jess. For that post. It came just when I needed it. I have a 2 1/2 year old and today was one of those days. I was feeling very defeated and frustrated today. Your post has encouraged me and reminded me not only of God's love and faithfulness to lead me through this time, but also that this is just a season. Whew. :)
I truly appreciate your blog. I have been a "lurker" here for a number of months now, but you consistently encourage and point me back to Christ. Thank you for what you do.