Somehow I thought these early years would be the hardest years. They were full of sleepless nights, marathon nursing sessions, and the long days of steady teaching, guiding, correcting, and connecting. There was simply so very much to teach a toddler. One day, I thought, things will settle down. These hands-on days of babyhood, toddlerhood, and the preschool stage would calm down eventually. His needs would be less demanding, his independent play would last longer, and maybe I'd be able to read an entire page in a book without interruption. I could sit and relax more often. Maybe I'd even get to sleep through the night again.
Now I have the privilege of bearing witness to the boy emerging from those years. He is entering the more independent years; his needs feel less demanding, less exhausting. He is no longer inclined to whack another child on the head for taking his toy, or to lie down and throw a tantrum when he doesn't get his way. He knows how to help out, how to clear away his plate after a meal, how to tidy his toys at the end of the day. He is heart-meltingly affectionate towards his little "bruzzer". When he goes on a playdate with a friend and leaves me behind, I don't worry. He's a good kid. I know he'll be polite and will behave appropriately. He's growing up.
But now that those early hands-on years are ending, I begin to feel the tug of bigger issues. The implications of failure are so much more frightening than forming good dental hygiene habits or correctly identifying shapes and colours. How do I get across to a growing individual the necessity of hard work, the satisfaction of a job well done? How do I help him to understand the importance of speaking and writing well if you wish to be taken seriously? How do I encourage him to make the right choice even when it means taking the hard path? How do I ensure he develops an healthy, accurate, well-rounded view of God? How do I do all this and more without messing things up? I feel ill-prepared.
Those early years - curbing a little one's desire to throw food on the floor, teaching a small child how to gain control of himself when the desire to throw a tantrum begins to take root - suddenly feel like the easy years. The years ahead loom big and important and more than a little frightening. I know that the answer has its foundation in relationship and connection, but will it be enough?
Will I be enough?