Parenting lessons simply never end

Our family recently gathered to celebrate my oldest?s birthday. She?s 4. Already.

It?s one of those ?time goes by so quickly? situations that totally caught me off guard. My little 6 pound, 1 ounce baby girl who wore preemie clothes for the first weeks of her life is now one year away from 5. And one year away from kindergarten.

My big girl, of course, has taken everything in stride. She proudly and confidently holds up her four fingers whenever she is asked her age. Her kitty birthday cake made her face light up. The stack of gifts made her jump up and down. Little sister swiping her newly opened treasures made her scream and push. (Oh wait, maybe she hasn?t taken EVERYTHING in stride.)

Sometimes I find it difficult to remember that 4 doesn?t equal maturity. My daughter still has a long way to go with her all-around development?just as I have a long way to go in my development as a mother.

Thinking back to those days and months leading up to April 16, 2008, I remember worrying about collecting items off my baby registry. I remember getting frustrated with well-intentioned commentary on my pregnancy. I remember trying to sort out good advice from annoying advice. And I remember all too well my selfishness, essentially living each day as my own.

And that?s why having a newborn rocked my world.

I didn?t realize how difficult it would be to completely give up myself for another person.

Fast forward 4 years. I find it easier to submit to motherhood. (Though I still get cranky if I don?t get a little down time in the early afternoons.) I know my schedule doesn?t come first. I know I can?t spend an hour getting ?ready? every day. I know my various projects get put on hold for coloring, assisting with Barbie?s wardrobe or reading ?It?s Not Easy Being Big? for the 10th time in a row.

I?ll admit, sometimes I still fight with graciously giving up my time, but it comes way more naturally now than it did in the beginning.

But the learning curve of motherhood is never complete. Each new stage brings new adjustments?something I try to resist as long as possible. Change from routine tends to be difficult. Can I get an Amen?

Now I am trying to learn more of the overarching ?mission? of motherhood. I?m trying to figure out the best methods for training my children?without sending them to therapy later.

I will admit, it?s a lot of trial and error. That?s why parenting books are so popular, and why any new parenting ?trick? is gobbled up whether it?s truly effective and right or not. As a parent, I often feel lost and overwhelmed with the task given to me.

Sometimes it?s hard to see through the murkiness. Sometimes it?s hard to keep my head above water. Sometimes it?s hard not to have a nervous breakdown because I feel so ineffective in my role.

But then, one time amid hundreds of ?my turn? sister arguments, my big girl looked my little girl in the eyes and said, ?We can share.? And then big gave little a hug.

That one success put goggles on my face, a life preserver on my body and broke the ties of my straightjacket.

And the learning continues.

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