Many years ago, when my children were all 7 years old and under, and we were getting ready to go out to play, I wished to myself that they could all do their zippers up and get their boots on without me. I couldn't wait for a time when going somewhere didn't take an extra thirty minutes.
Similar thoughts frequently entered my mind: I'll be glad when they can all cut their own food; when they can tie their own shoes; when they can help me in the kitchen without making a mess; when they've stopped outgrowing their pants in two months. There are many scenarios. Of course, my own mother warned me about wishing their lives away, just as she cautioned me about wishing my own away.
Seeing our kids gain independence is exciting, but if we focus too much on wishing they were older, there can be some not so great consequences.
Let's face it; many aspects of parenting quickly become monotony. When we get tired of the monotony, we may begin to rush our children and show impatience. Impatient parents can discourage a child from trying, and taken to an extreme, crush a child's spirit. Who wants to try when every effort it met with a "hurry up" attitude? When we get impatient with a perceived lack of spiritual progress, we can come across as harsh. I don't know about you, but someone who always greets me with impatience is someone I want to avoid. There were many, many times when I was so certain that my nagging would get the results, only to see my children embrace things on their own, and all my worry and concern was for naught.
Living in tomorrow rather than today
Wishing our kids were older may cause our gaze to be in the future rather than right now, and we may miss something. It may mean we don't take as much joy or show as much encouragement for little things in their lives. On the negative side, living for tomorrow may mean we don't see the problems of today, and the unresolved things of today can be very unruly tomorrow. Worrying more about when they're going to finally grow up and act like an adult when they're only 12 can mean we're not paying attention to the good progress they have now. It may mean we're not focusing on the heart as we should because that takes too much time and we want that end result to come quickly.
Checking out in the teen years
There is an erroneous assumption that when they are 12+ that they require less of us. I don't agree. Maintaining a connection to family can be a challenge in the teen years, because young people are gaining bigger social networks. When our kids are in their teens, and their independence is in sight, if we spend too much time wondering when we can convert their bedroom to an office, we may check out of what's happening right now. There is a lot of talk about young adults who walk away from the church. It doesn't happen when they leave home; it happens while they're at home. Kids who walk away from their faith start the process while they're at home. This is the biggest mistake I made as a parent: thinking that the right response from a teenager equated maturity, and therefore, I could relax. Too many times, I dropped the ball.
There is no "quality" versus "quantity"
There are hundreds of moments I wish I could get back as a mother. There are moments when I was too impatient, and too worried about tomorrow rather than today. It was selfishness on my part. I'm not saying that every moment must be spent with our children, or that we cannot have our own interests, but as our kids get older and schedules are so busy that even a meal together is an impossibility, the time we have with them is precious. There is a false dichotomy between having "quality" or "quantity" time with our kids. In reality, both kids of time are necessary.
I have friends who have grandchildren. I watch their joy, and I hear their pride and love as they share their stories. I don't hear them saying, "I can't wait for junior to grow up." Grandmas have learned that children grow up much too fast, and grandmas have found the joy of loving the moment. I hope I will have that experience myself someday. And hopefully, I'll be an encouraging and patient voice, encouraging those young mothers not to wish their children's lives away.