This is an official apology to parents of young children.
I have forgotten.
I am an almost empty nester but not yet a grandparent. Memory lapse is my only excuse. Forgetfulness that borders on early signs of dementia.
Forgive me for the times you have been frustrated or aggravated or exhausted while dealing with your toddler or preschooler, and I have said something pious and guilt-ridden like, “Just enjoy these days. They will be gone soon.” As if this non-helpful piece of advice will make your child’s behavior less frustrating, less aggravating, less exhausting. As if you didn’t know they were going to grow. AS IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW!!!
I look at my history of parenting through the lens of my heart and only remember the joys. There have been times I wish my adult daughters were once again preschoolers. I have forgotten. And today, I actually wondered, WHAT HAVE I BEEN THINKING?
I taught in a preschool class today. Oh, I was so excited for the hugs and the sweet smiles and the funny way four-year-olds talk. And I was not disappointed. They are precious . . . simply precious!
But it did remind me of all that I have forgotten.
I have forgotten that:
Preschoolers melt down because a stamp is put on their hand instead of their elbow
One tablespoon of dirt for planting a flower can turn small hands completely black and clothing filthy in the time it took you to direct another preschooler how to hold a pencil
Preschoolers have very specific ideas about food: corn dogs should be minus the corn casing; catsup should be in a ½ cup heap; blackberries are good but blueberries stink; fish crackers must be counted for the FIFTH time before eaten even if we are in a hurry
Books must be read verbatim . . . no ad-libbing
“No” is a favorite word
Choice is ESSENTIAL with children under five
Personal space is worthy of war: he is standing on my square, she touched my hair; she poked my arm; he put his hand near my face
Imagination and reality are blurred: “What is your name?”
“What is your real name?”
“Isn’t your name Kristy?”
“ No, I changed it to Elsa.” (With a scornful look that says, “Have you not SEEN FROZEN?” “Do you not SEE my sweatshirt with Elsa on it?”)
To make my confession even harder, I know I have laughed at these situations as I have watched you parents struggle with them. Yes, laughed. Sad, I know. I can’t blame this on forgetfulness. I remember being mad at middle-aged women who laughed when my children were naughty. Yes, naughty! I remember when my then four-year-old daughter took off her shoes and socks in church and hung her feet over the back of the pew while I was intently listening to the sermon. I remember the laughter behind me! I remember when my two-year-old smacked my eight-year-old in the head, and a middle-aged man laughed hysterically. I remember thinking, “That is so NOT funny!”
I don’t know what changed my perspective, but I confess, these things now make me want to laugh (well, maybe not smacking another child in the head…. that is still not funny). Today in the preschool class, there were a few times I heard a laugh-out-loud belly laugh – only one laugh like that in the classroom – coming from me! Oh shame!
But these preschoolers are…just…so…funny!
However, today I was also reminded that preschoolers are also mind-bogglingly frustrating in their attention to detail, wanting their way, and the order of life as they see it. I had forgotten. Forgive me.
I will try to hide my smiles. I will listen as you complain. And I will try very, very, very hard not to tell you how quickly time goes. How they are just four and then they are twenty-seven. How now they want you to rub their back during nap time . . . over and over and over . . . and cover them up again, and sit by their cot until they fall asleep . . . and that too soon they won’t even need you because they are independent and self-sufficient and have friends. I will try not to convince you that though it is so frustrating when you are leaving them at preschool and they cling and cry and don’t want you to go…that oh so very soon, you will be the one who feels like crying, and clinging, and throwing a temper tantrum because they are leaving.
Because they are . . . grown.
So please forgive my middle-aged perspective. I will try very hard to offer you grace without platitude, to listen without flooding you with my supposed wisdom, to take your toddler for a few minutes so you can eat in peace, . . . and to stifle my giggles when your children are obviously . . . exasperating!