Day 22/23 Emerging from the Tunnel of Parenthood
Yesterday, we officially made it to end of the tunnel of parenthood (i.e. the first five years of your first child's life). The point of the tunnel is not to say that when you've reached its end, you are suddenly an expert on parenting. Not in the least. (Read the above linked article!) But what it does mean is that you've survived those first five intense years for the first time. And that's cause for celebration!
Of course, this doesn't mean that parenting is magically easier now. But I still think that it's something to celebrate, this milestone.
I feel like there is a tendency, among mothers (even mothers who are very good friends), to compare. We want to feel like we are doing the right thing (whatever that is) and we want to feel like others appreciate how hard our lives are. I totally get it! But here's the thing - every child is different. If your child turns five and is still an absolute handful, that's okay! You have still survived those first five years of development together, and you can still both (you and your child!) give yourselves a pat on the back.
Coupled with this is also the fear that if you acknowledge the difficulty of those first five years, you're somehow blaming your child. You're not! The first five years with your first child are something that you go through together. They are years (like the early years of marriage) where strife can either bond you together or pull you apart.
And these first five years are actually a good analogy for family life in general. Family life can be full of some of the most intensely beautiful and incredible moments you will ever know. It also can (and probably will) be the place where you experience the greatest hardships. What will define your family is not whether or not you struggle - but how that struggle impacts your relationship to each other. Like in the newlywed years, and in the tunnel - will those struggles become an opportunity to bond over something together? Or will they lead you to grow in resentment toward each other?
And, if we're fully honest (especially my fellow young parents) our days may be filled with a mix of both. There may be days that we resent each other, when we are frustrated with just how hard everything is. That's okay! This is where being a domestic monastery matters. One of the cores of your little monastery is simple - the very real desire to love each other. Ultimately, that love and a good dose of forgiveness (like when your mom accidentally leaves your refrigerate only birthday cake on the counter all afternoon and has to run out and buy another one before bedtime...not that my daughter has any personal experience with that or anything) and a good sense of humor. The sense of a domestic monastery is, "We love each other. And darn it...we're in it together!"
Happy birthday to my sweet love. You've brought me more joy that you'll ever know!