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Growing Pains

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One foot in front of the other and eventually you cross the line.

That’s what my text from Heather said on Friday when I told her I needed her tips for running the half-marathon I’m training for. That’s solid advice for running and, as I’ve been reminded over the past week, it’s good advice for parenting too. One foot in front of the other. We’ve had a rough last few days in the parenting world. Your average three-year-old antics, one part stubborn independence, one part whiny impatience and a summer cold on top of that made for a rough patch.

After several weeks of feeling like we were making steps forward, finding a good rhythm to our day, making progress on our family rules, it seemed, as if in an instant, everything was off kilter. Now, all of a sudden, I felt like I was running backwards (and uphill)! I remembered a chapter called “Growth Spurts” I had read in Rachel Jankovic’s book Loving the Little Years.

Whenever this happens, this ambiguous restlessness in the house, I try to think of it as a growth spurt. It is like all my children have a growth spurt at the same time and develop new needs. This is only a problem when Mom doesn’t have a growth spurt herself… Once again, I find that the children’s attitudes are tethered to mine. If I pray for a growth spurt, for ideas on how to help them, how to make this a fun new phase, and how to appreciate their new needs, then the change on my part usually clears up a lot of things. I am not saying that this eliminates the need for discipline, but it makes it gloriously clear-cut and sweet. My attitude is no longer a player, and it is no longer a big ‘situation.’ It is just normal life.

Moving from training for a 5K to training for a half-marathon required me to change my approach. If I’m going to keep putting one foot in front of the other, I have to know some days will be harder than others. Last week, I ran the Zoom through the Zoo 4-mile run. It was much harder because it was in the evening and it was hot and humid. I was accustomed to running first thing in the morning, usually around sunrise when it’s still cool and my body is well-rested. Part of my training is learning to adjust to different conditions, heat instead of cold, rainy instead of sunny, hilly instead of flat. As Jankovic’s book reminded me, the same goes for my kids. I have to learn to adjust myself to their “growth spurts.” And ultimately, it all comes down to one thing… put one foot in front of the other until you cross the finish line. And when my 7000 days with my kids is up and I cross that finish line, I hope I can throw my hands in the air and celebrate that I never gave up. We scaled the hills, we relished the descents, we sweated, we cheered, we smiled, we cried and the whole way we put one foot in front of the other.

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