By Guest Blogger Ellen Bryant Lloyd
Fans filled the stands as players for each team huddled on the sidelines, listening to last minute game instructions from their respective coaches. The huddle ended with a pep talk and collective team cheer, signaling it was time for players to assume their positions on the field.
An air of excitement grew in the stands as a referee walked into the center of the field with the black and white ball in his hand. Players stood ready, waiting for the whistle to blow, signaling the start of the soccer game.
The whistle sounded and the players were off! Cheers steadily erupted from the sidelines as the ball moved up and down the field. I was thrilled to be one of the cheering spectators at this big game. However, the soccer game I attended was not a professional, collegiate or even high school soccer game. The players were all in elementary school and proud members of a community recreation soccer league.
I came to watch my long-time BFF’s three children, all of whom I love as my own, play their early morning games. This super proud “aunt” was excited to be there and had a great time. However, I did not expect to have a flood of memories hit me. I had a lump in my throat and many feelings of nostalgia as I thought of my own children playing soccer years earlier.
Both of my children played rec soccer and I loved going to their early morning games. Sure, there were hectic mornings when groggy children could not get going. There were mornings where various uniform pieces would mysteriously be MIA, but that never dampened my enthusiasm for watching my son and daughter play. When each of them “retired” from soccer, they moved on to participate in other activities. These often required early morning or late evening practices, games or performances. However, I never grew weary of them largely because of something my mom once told me.
When my first child was born, my mother came to stay with us for a few days. Exhausted, I had a late evening “moment” when I confessed that I was not sure I how I would get through this stage of him being so colicky and me having little sleep. I added that I could not wait until he was older and sleeping through the night.
My mom stopped me and gave me a “mom” look as only she could. She then told me that I needed to shift my thinking and never “wish away” any stage of parenting, no matter how hard it may seem in the moment. She said that every stage of raising children held gifts, but that was the key, they were all stages. The stages were not forever and when they were gone, they would not return. The problem, she said, was that I would miss them.
She told me that all too often parents wish away times viewed as challenging, thinking the next stage will be easier. However, each stage comes with its own set of challenges, some harder than others. My mom encouraged me to remember to enjoy each stage, push through the tough parts and embrace all the special moments and experiences. She said that one day I would miss schedules packed to the gill with children’s activities, toys strewn everywhere, overflowing laundry and a chaotic, full house as that would mean my children had grown up and that season of parenting was in the past. She was right.
In that bleary-eyed moment, I vowed to never wish away any stage of parenting. To this day, I have not. I never rushed my children to grow up faster than they were ready to. I have always looked forward to every opportunity to spend time with them, either one-on-one or at a group activity or sporting event.
I am so grateful I listened to my mom’s advice more than 20 years ago. It made me be a better mom who enjoyed raising children more fully. Every year with them has held many gifts, more than I can count.
I wanted to share the lyrics from Then They Do by Trace Adkins as they really hit home for me and capture the sentiment I want to share. Listen to it being performed, but make sure you have tissues handy.
Then They Do — Trace Adkins
“No more Monday PTAs
No more carpools or soccer games
Your work is done
Now you’ve got time that’s all your own
You’ve been waiting for so long
For those days to come”
“Then they do
And that’s how it is
It’s just quiet in the morning
Can’t believe how much you miss
All they do
And all they did
You want all the dreams they’ve dreamed of to come true
Then they do
Oh, and then they do”
Whether your season of parenting finds you with an infant, tweens or a house full of teenagers, my wish is that you do not wish away any stage, but rather enjoy all the sweet moments and embrace the many gifts each of them brings.
Ellen Bryant Lloyd is a writer and mom of two children, one who has flown from the nest and the other is not far from it. She blogs about perspectives on life and parenting at mindfulmom.wordpress.com and tweets at @EllenBLloyd. She is the author of FRECKLES and FRECKLES and The Great Beach Rescue, a freelance writer and memoir ghostwriter. Ellen lives in Greensboro with her husband, her daughter, when she is home from college, and the sweetest dog ever. She looks forward to seeing her son, who is now living and working in a nearby metropolitan city, as often as possible.
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