As a parent of two children under five, I’ve found that some advice I hear from other parents is sound in principle but difficult to follow in practice, especially when those with older children remind me:
“Enjoy every moment.”
“Soak it in. It all goes by so fast.”
“The days are long, but the years are short.”
They’re right, of course. There’s something special about that time in a parent’s life when you’re the center of your little one’s world, when their first instinct so frequently is to run, talk, or look to you for everything.
But it’s not always easy to embrace that lesson when you’re in the middle of it. You’re tired. You’re frazzled. Some days you might even yearn for the older and less dependent age to come in the future. It’s natural to miss the concept of me-time and free-time that seems to have gone by the wayside since your kids arrived.
Intellectually, I understand the day will come when I’ll want to travel back in parental time to where I am right now. But as much as I know I should make every effort to enjoy this time, there are plenty of days when I feel like I’m experiencing the throes of parenting rather than the joy of it.
If you have a student who will soon be applying to college, you’re likely experiencing something similar.
The college admissions process has a way of distorting what’s really important. That one grade, that one test score, the pressure and anxiety and confusion that surrounds the process–it’s perfectly natural to feel like you’re in survival mode, just battening down the home hatches until the application storm passes later next spring.
But much like the early years of parenting, a focus on just getting through it can ruin the opportunity to actually enjoy a time that won’t be coming back.
One year from now, your senior will likely be departing for college, with all the tectonic family shifts that come with it. Do you want to look back on the next 12 months as one long march filled with anxiety, project management, head-butting and hand-wringing? Or would you rather take a breath and relish this time as your young adult prepares to leave the nest?
The same sense of longing you feel looking back at their younger years can be channeled into joy while looking forward to their future years. Raising a mature, capable, responsible adult who’s ready to go to college is a pride-worthy achievement for a parent. Why not enjoy it? Why not soak up the opportunity to watch your once dependent child take some of their most important independent steps? And most importantly, why not embrace the lessons you might impart on a new parent like me and make every effort to appreciate this as the remarkable time that it is?
Put a different way: How many days are left until your teen departs for college? You don’t need to calculate the answer to embrace the lesson.
The days may be long, but trust me, this year will feel short.