When my husband and I decided to have another child, I envisioned moments of sibling love. When the kids would play on the floor together with cherub-like smiles and laughter that carried from one edge of the house to another. A little more than two-and-a-half years later, I’ve learned those Norman-Rockwell moments are few and far between. More often than not, when my children do actually play together, it turns into some rendition of StarWars or Power Rangers, and anything worth swinging becomes a lightsaber or sword. Instantly, my once comfortable couch transforms into a springboard of propulsion to help them skyrocket through the galaxy (aka a trampoline).
But sometimes through the noise and inevitable destruction, which is bound to ensue when they find themselves in the same room, there is a glimpse. A small glimpse mind you, but a glimpse nonetheless; of two brothers playing in harmony with the uninhibited imagination found only in young children. They build Lego cities where dinosaurs roam, and army men rule. They construct winding trains with tracks going from one room to the next. They sit and play their Kindles next to one another snuggled on a couch sharing one cozy blanket between the two of them. Their handmade pillow forts quickly transform into a rocket ship and then into a playhouse, and then a city bus or firetruck. These moments melt my heart, and I cherish them dearly, but as they become more frequent, I've noticed another change.
I've become less important.
Now I don't want to overexaggerate here, my children are still young, and they need me for many things - laundry, food, boo boo kisses, bedtime stories, and the list goes on - but they do not need me to play. They do just fine on their own, without the outside influence of closeminded adult imaginations; they do fine without me.
I was watching them play together outside the other day, and it hit me, I never expected that adding more people to our family would create a void for me. I had always imagined the sheer size of an expanding family would lend itself to a feeling of total inclusiveness, and most of the time it does, but it also fosters an environment for imaginations and personalities to flourish independent of the other people in the family unit. I had assumed my boys would play together, but I thought I would be a part of it. The truth is, I just complicate things most of the time. I've discovered a small sense of newfound loneliness, but it is as fleeting as a gust of wind when I realize it comes from the very thing I desired for them - they find enjoyment in the company of their sibling. They do occasionally ask me to make a cameo appearance during their playtime charades, that is until they banished me to the land of the bad guys, but for the most part, they play with me. Now my evolving role is to sit back, break up the sword fights, encourage them to play together, and acknowledge their progress and accomplishments.
This is just one of the innumerable steps required to let them grow up and transition into young boys, then young men, and then men of character, but I want to acknowledge it because it took me by surprise. I'm sure this is something all parents experience at one point or another; a stage of their child's life passing, seemingly large or even insignificant, so quickly or unexpectedly it seems to happen overnight. One moment they are tiny little beings which rely on you for every conceivable need and the next they are standing with a set of car keys ready to sit behind the wheel of a vehicle. The reality can be quite shocking if you aren't aware it's happening.
I realize as a mom there will be many more opportunities for me to be shocked by the unexpected realization my kids are growing up and the arms of the clock pass much more quickly than I desire. Heck, they aren't even in kindergarten yet, so there is a long road in front of me full of surprises with unforeseen twists and turns. I'm looking forward to navigating the changes and watching how we all weather each stage of childhood, even knowing that my motherly role will change just as rapidly as they do.
I need to learn and accept, that as my everyday role as a playmate and parent may change, but my priorities to lovingly guide my children through life via my words and persistent example do not. Parenting a two-year-old may look vastly different than traversing the terrain of preteens (I guess I'll learn that soon enough) and while my participation may not be wanted at times, the fact that I observe and influence during times of peril and praise in moments of triumph should be unwavering. It just amazed me, that at such young ages, this lesson has already presented become obvious, maybe it's just God's way of preparing me for what's ahead.
If you have more than one child was there one particular change which has come as a surprise to you in your parenting journey? Please share in the comments below so we can learn from your experience.