This too shall pass: the ups and downs of parenthood

As I scooped another generous helping of peanut butter straight from the jar into my mouth yesterday, I found myself silently chanting, “This too shall pass.”

My toddler had once been so easy to put to bed, but we were now on day five of him fighting sleep and refusing to go down until late. All week we’d been trying stories, cuddles and our entire, collective repertoire of nursery rhymes and Wiggles songs. I’d dragged a pillow and blanket into his room and collapsed beside him on the carpet, feigning sleep. We’d let him call out for a little while (as long as inner-city living allows), going in periodically to reassure and soothe him. No deal. Eyes rolling around in his head, he’d eventually pass out, and then we’d limp into our own bed and crash.

As I attacked the jar of peanut butter with a spoon and listened to my husband reading my son yet another story, the soothing, age-old mantra “this too shall pass” repeated silently in my head. It’s a mantra that’s carried me through many a challenging stage since becoming a mum.

I vividly recall those first few months, the sleep-deprivation like an unshakable hangover, life occurring in three-hourly stretches with no real delineation between night and day. “This too shall pass,” I’d silently chant, desperately trying to stay awake during 2am feeds.

The arrival of full-blown witching hours came next, long afternoons with a crying baby, trapped inside by winter rain. The pacing up and down the hallway, patting and sshing and cooing. And sometimes, just bursting into tears and crying too. My relief was palpable when my husband’s key finally turned in the front door and I’d hand over a writhing, overtired bundle and disappear into the bathroom for a much needed shower. “This too shall pass,” I’d silently chant under the hot water.

Each month brought with it fresh challenges: the transformation from a baby who gobbled down everything in sight to one who only ate toast and strawberries. The dinner time battle of wills, the tears, the food thrown across the floor and refusal to eat at all. Scattered sleep due to teething, cycles of colds and gastro after starting daycare.

Listening to my husband gently close my son’s bedroom door and tiptoe down the stairs with a grin and a thumbs-up, it occurred to me that while there’s comfort in knowing that challenging stages do indeed pass, there’s something bittersweet about it too. Because for each tricky phase there are corresponding delights, too; when the round-the-clock feeds disappeared, so too did my tiny, 0000-wearing, snuggly newborn. When witching hour vanished (mostly) and teething finished, also gone were the ridiculously chubby baby cheeks and dimply thighs.

Before going into meltdown at bedtime, my toddler had danced around the living room naked with utter abandon, asked the cat to join him and threw me smile after toothy smile. And while I know we won’t struggle with bedtime forever, I know there’ll also come a time when the living room carpet won’t be a stage, wearing clothes will be mandatory and scowls will, at least momentarily, replace the smiles.

With that in mind, I’ve decided that when next I’m chanting “this too shall pass” and hacking into the peanut butter – whether it’s caused by clingy daycare drop-offs, overnight waking, or refusal to eat anything but plain rice – I’m going to try to conjure up some of the good parts about that stage as well. Because I know that along with the tricky, stressful bits, some of the cute, quirky, funny things pass, too. To only be replaced by brand new ones, of course.

This article was previously published on Essential Baby


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