Seasons, Stages, Changes

Weekly column
There is a pond down the street from our house, a shimmering oval we are always passing. When the big boys were little, we would often stop at the pond. Sometimes we were on our way somewhere else, many times the pond itself was our destination. I would set aside old bread and we’d head out to feed the ducks that glide across the surface and call the water home.

One recent family outing, we drove past the pond and I realized we had not stopped there in several years. In fact, it was out of the blue that I even noticed the pond and its fleet of ducks.

“Look at the ducks, Henry,” someone pointed out to our three-year-old, and I made a mental note to gather up old bread and bring the boys back, soon. Henry is at the perfect age to enjoy such an outing.

“When you big boys were little,” I told them, “we would go to the pond all the time.”

How strange, I realized as I spoke, that so many of my sentences now start this way. I recall events and stories of that oft-strenuous season and time has now worn away the cutting edge. Instead of the harsh reality of the very hard days, my memories are now fuzzy, like a comforting blanket.

I look at that pond and think about my boys so tiny, all of us happy for an outing full of such simple adventure. Going to feed the ducks was our activity for the day; how delightful.

What I choose to forget, what no longer seems crucial, is the agitation of getting my little boys loaded in the car. If I dig deep enough, I can remember that those outings involved a To Do list about a mile long.

Leaving the house meant putting on everyone’s shoes because no one was self-sufficient. It required packing sippy cups and clean diapers, double-checking our supply of pacifiers and loading up the stroller.

Getting into our car meant lugging a baby carrier while corralling toddlers bent on going in my opposite direction. How did I manage to buckle so many car seats, to lift and heave so many little bodies? And then doing all this, in reverse, when we pulled back in the driveway.

I don’t think now about the cold sweats brought on by keeping the boys out of the water. I can now laugh about the times the ducks, apparently starving to death, chased us down for bread. I tossed them whole hot dog buns while backing my brood into the car for safety.

Good times, I will chuckle to myself. And these days, I really mean it.

Family photo albums (or photo drawers) are filled with pictures from special events – the family decked out for baptisms and Christmas, looking good at Easter and blowing out candles on birthdays.

What I treasure even more are the simple memories, sitting in the kitchen for open-ended bubble-blowing, taking a drive in the country to see the cows, heading out together to feed the ducks. I treasure these memories of somehow getting through the hard days because there was enough goodness mixed in to recognize the joy, the abject beauty of this mission of motherhood and family life.

Even in the toughest times, it is still so very, very good.

Life offers us so many challenges. There are hard times; Lord willing we will get through those seasons. When we look back, there is somehow the ability to recognize the grace, to see just how present God’s goodness was to us in those times.

I think about the early years, all the times I would eye with a tinge of envy those families who had what I so desired – self-sufficient children, places to go, people to see. In those difficult years, I didn’t believe I would ever be at a less intense season.

And then, there I was. Imagine my surprise to look back and realize the stress was somehow all just part of the fun.

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  1. Thank you for this post. With a 5,3, 2, and 6 month old I feel like I am in the thick of it and overwhelmed. Going to story time is a challenge. Traversing the parking lot and making it inside safely is a blessing. I love hearing how you do get to the other side one day and look back on the fun, stressful days.

  2. I am going to have to ban myself from your blog for the rest of my pregnancy. You get me crying more than any other blogger! When my oldest were babies we lived across the street from a pond….They would always say thank you to God for the sparkles on the pond. I laughed outloud as I too, was so petrified they would fall into the pond or get bit by a duck, but we would trek there after dinner without fail. Sometimes I would watch the kids with my husband while I did the dishes and tear up…just imagining when that moment would someday be a memory…sniff, sniff!

  3. Timeforme says:

    I always feel better after reading your posts……

  4. Granny Annie says:

    More great content for your next book. I have finished HOW DO YOU TUCK IN A SUPER HERO and did a very brief review on my blog today. It is the perfect book for parents raising sons, but is it also just the perfect book for any family. Perhaps I loved it so much because I was first acquainted with your children through your blog.

  5. I so remember those days- ours are now 12, 10, 9, 6, 6, and almost 4. Why is it that when you are going through the tougher times when everyone needs you for everything, you can't appreciate that it will end? I think it's partly exhaustion and those overwhelming feelings that it will always be that way. I too look back at things we did and realize that yes, "the stress was somehow all just part of the fun". I miss those days, believe it or not!

  6. mommytomany says:

    Thank you for this post…with a 6,4,3,2, 6monoth old & 1 on the way in my all boy home I never get out of the house without breaking a sweat or having half of my make up falling off of my face BUT I wouldnt change it for the world. When I'm most weary I often look at families with 2 children and the ease of them coming & going & I stop to remind myself that the blessings far outweigh the present stress. Before I know it everyone will be self sufficient & I'll long for the days where they needed me to tie their shoes & I got to sneak in a kiss or two…it makes me teary eyed…I love your blog posts…I can so relate! Thanks

  7. appledapple says:

    this is lovely and captures so clearly what I've been feeling lately!

  8. I feel like I've just gotten out of the woods" with our 4, now aged 7, 5, 3 and 2. We don't need to carry all that baby stuff everywhere we go anymore! I'm finally at a place I only dreamed about…so why do I want another baby? 🙂

  9. Jennifer G. says:

    I have been thinking back to this post for the past few days and I just want to say thank you!! So often I worry that I am going ot have so many negative memories of my children's younger years because of all the stress involved. It was a nice reminder that I already look back on the past as the "good times" and I don't see the chaos involved in organizing an outing or special event. The memory created is what is leaving the imprint.

  10. Tempest Ahoy says:

    Thank you for this. I am in the thick of it and sometimes I forget that one day I will have 2 reasonably self sufficient children and will miss chubby little legs and toddlers clamouring to sit on my lap.

  11. Anonymous says:

    what a good reminder to cherish these tough days mixed with sweetness and fun with many young ones.