Parenting lesson #24: Change is often easier for children than it is for us.

IMG_4463I think I remember – but I’m not sure – that babies cry a lot, and at all times of the day and night.  Because our other two children know how to sleep all night long, baby #3 is going to need his or her own room from which to launch wailing attacks on the rest of us.  We knew the day would come when Eliza and Zach would get real beds.  I just didn’t know it would be so easy for them, yet make me cry.  (Though, as I’ve already explained, pregnancy can cause you to cry at the drop of a hat.  Literally, if someone dropped a hat, it could make me cry.)

This weekend Greg put together the bunk bed I ordered from Amazon.  Mattresses arrived; new choo-choo train and butterfly sheets came.  I really only teared up a little at the process, watching the shift before my very eyes of my children growing out of their little years into beds that grown people can use.  The kids are in heaven, already putting stuffed animals on the fan blades from the top bunk and sending them on carousel rides around the room until they fly off.  They have transitioned beautifully.  They are not scared.  They seem happy to be sleeping in the same room.  And that’s making it slightly easier on me.

But I sit here a bit nostalgic because of unforeseen ramifications.  Our bedtime routine for more than two years with Eliza, and a year with Zach, has included cuddle time in their toddler beds as we cling to a final few talking, processing, praying moments.  Now that Eliza is up on a top bunk, I can climb up pretty easily, but not down on my belly the way it is safe to climb down.  For now, I can cuddle with her on Zach’s bed or our bed, but it’s not the same thing.  Not only that, but on my way to bed later on at night, I always go into each room and admire their angelic, sleeping faces, tuck them in again, and kiss them one last time.  I can still do this with Zach, but I can’t with Eliza.  At least not without waking her up.  And it makes me melancholy.

As our children grow and begin new phases, there are often unintended consequences that we can’t foresee.  Some are welcome changes on the road to independence.  And others make us long for the times we didn’t know we cherished until they’re gone.  The end of the nursing relationship brings welcome freedom, but also a sadness of the loss of the bond.  Potty training means (generally speaking) an end to cleaning smeared poop in all sorts of crevices, but it also means you have to stop in a LOT more public restrooms for toilet breaks.  I know this fall, the beginning of Kindergarten will end the phase of Eliza’s life when she has spent most of her waking hours with me instead of someone else.  And on and on it will go, until these children either go off to college or get married, or maybe until we throw all their belongings in the yard.  (You never know what’s in store.)

It’s easy to worry about how our kids will adjust to changes as they grow.  But I think so far I’ve learned that change seems to be harder for us than for them.  Children seem to adapt to new circumstances pretty well, especially if we have prepped them for what’s to come.  We have spent several months telling the kids about the “cool” bunk beds they would get.  We acted like they were getting a new toy.  In retrospect, that’s probably why they have already turned the top bunk into a game lair for launching stuffed animals off the fan.  I’m anticipating the first bunk bed injury, which will no doubt lead to some serious crying.  But as we are getting ready for a new baby anyway, the inevitable tears will be good preparation for what’s to come – another life change for us, another life that will be born, and will bring with it a childhood that goes from phase to phase all too quickly.

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