Not to gloat (Ok, well maybe a little), but we’ve been diaper-free in our family for over a year now. One year, two weeks, and four days, to be exact. I know, because the moment Little Bit, our almost five-year-old, finally decided to take care of his business on the toilet was pretty much an epic adventure in the life of our family.
It came on the heels of an 18-month battle with him, similarly awful to that which we experienced with our other two. And also like the other two, it came when he decided it was time. Not me.
You see, three summers ago, on our way home from our first week at family camp when he was three and a half, I decided it was time. So I set a goal. By the time we came back to camp the following year, he would be fully-trained.
I wrung my hands over it. All. Year. Long. But he wouldn’t go. Not once.
So when family camp rolled around again last summer, I had accepted the fact that we would spend another summer in the mountains with him in diapers. Not the worst thing in the world, but certainly not what I had planned.
And then the strangest thing happened. One hour outside of camp, he yelled from the backseat, “I need to go poopy!” At the time, we were driving past this darling restaurant by the river outside of Creede, so Kory whipped into the parking lot, I grabbed Little Bit out of his car seat and ran into the restaurant, screaming, “Where’s the potty? Where’s the potty?”
He took care of his business. And that was it.
He was done. Finished. Potty trained.
Not an accident since.
It all happened so fast, we were stunned and needed to catch our breath.
So instead of pressing on, we decided we just had to take a break from driving and eat a celebratory piece of pie on the patio of that little restaurant. I took this picture to commemorate the moment. (For those of you who are discouraged about potty training, I wrote a post called Advice from the World’s Worst Potty Trainer that will leave you giggling and encouraged. Take a peak if you need a pick-me-up from all the poo!)
This year, knowing we would drive the same route on the same Sunday in July, and knowing how amazingly scrumptious that pie had been, we decided it would be appropriate to stop and have a piece to commemorate the one-year anniversary of our family being diaper-free.
Of course by the time we got there, Little Bit had fallen asleep, so he missed the party.
But that didn’t stop us. We pulled into the restaurant, let the kids stretch their legs, and grabbed a piece of four-berry pie to go, hoping to add a dollup of a la mode when we got to Freemon’s General Store on the other side of Creede for lunch. (Have I ever told you that food and I have a bit of a love affair going on?)
In those few moments on the patio, with the fresh mountain air hitting my face and the cooler temperatures reviving my soul, the significance of the moment which had occurred one year earlier hit me. Yes, Little Bit was finally potty trained. And yes, it’s been a huge load off our shoulders, physically, emotionally, and financially.
But it also marked the beginning of the end of a season in our family that’s lasted over 11 years. The preschool season. In late-August, Little Bit will join his brother and sister full-time at school, and we will no longer have any kids “at home.”
I have mixed feelings about this.
On the one hand, it’s obvious we’re exhausted with the monotonous side of the preschool years. We’re ready for the margin of time having them all in school will create for other things. And we’re excited to see Little Bit grow into the young boy he will become through school.
But on the other hand, I’m deeply, deeply grieved by the closing of this chapter in the story of our family because “Mommy-Son Days” are all but over. My sous-chef will be gone from the kitchen during dinner-time prep, I’ll be alone during my errand running and lunch dates out, and naps together before pickup (with the diffuser emitting Peace & Calming and my iPhone playing New Age spa music between us on the pillow) will be few and far between.
And I’m left wondering.
What am I going to do with the rest of my life?
Because an old season is passing. A new one is beginning. And before I know it, that season will pass too. Little Bit won’t be leaving for kindergarten. He’ll be leaving for good.
That leaves a pit in my stomach and tears in my eyes.
But press on we must.
In this horribly challenging, awkward season I’ve found myself in these last few years, God is teaching me a few things. And I’m so thankful. Because if I came out of this season without some new wisdom for the road ahead, it would be a tragic waste of my life.
I’m learning that life is just a string of seasons thrown together over the passage of time.
And like my friend Melanie says, “This too shall pass.” All of it. The good. The bad. The ugly. And all the normal in between.
I’m learning that when we conquer one challenge (a/k/a “growth opportunity”) in our life, there’s usually another waiting just around the bend.
Sure, Little Bit is potty trained, but we’ve traded that growth opportunity for new ones. Like how to manage the busyness of three kids in extra-curricular activities. How to navigate puberty. When to give certain freedoms. When to take them away. How to allow and restrict technology. How to talk to our kids about the world we live in. And so on and so on.
So life isn’t just a string of seasons, it’s a string of growth opportunities. Again. And again. And again. They just keep coming, challenging, and changing us.
They are so persistently present in our lives, I’m learning they’re not the bumps in the road. They’re our normal.
I’m also learning something about the pace of life. The first half of our lives is characterized by achieving culturally defined milestones in rapid succession, one after the other. Going to school, starting our careers, buying a house, possibly getting married, maybe having kids.
And then, after all the kids are born, we hit a big long stretch of “normal” growth opportunities. For me, after all those milestones along the way, a few (or 11) years of “normal” growth opportunities has started to feel pretty mundane. And exhausting. And I’ve wondered a lot lately:
Is it going to be like this for the rest of my life?
That’s where I am right now. Asking myself this question. And if the answer is yes, I’m not sure how I feel about it.
But I’m also aware of what’s happening in the lives of others around me. Dear friends who aren’t dealing with “normal” growth opportunities. They’re dealing with life-changing events. And I know my time will come too.
So for now, in this season, I’m desperately trying to fall in love with normal.
I’m trying to find contentment in the midst of mundane. I’m trying to treasure this moment. To be thankful for the seemingly little things. To not miss the wonder happening all around me. And to not be so caught up in what the next big milestone will be that I miss this part of time.
When we were in Crested Butte last week, I took our daughter to town for a morning of shopping. We stopped by the local coffee shop to grab a warm drink, and we made our way down Elk Street, strolling each of the quaint little shops while we visited together. When we walked into The Gypsy Wagon, this sign jumped off the wall and hit me like a two by four, square between the eyes:
I immediately wanted it because it’s precisely what I’m striving for. But it was $300 for the love, so now I’m searching Etsy for someone to make something similar. I need this visual reminder hanging in my home:
Let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may.
Faithfully yours. (Credit: Mary Jean Irion)
This is my prayer today. And my goal for my tomorrows.