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Am I Enjoying My Kids Enough?

Photograph by Twenty20

A few weeks ago this woman's Facebook post went viral. In it she describes how her daughter was stillborn at 40 weeks. It's a heartbreaking post. She also pleads with other parents to enjoy their children:

"All I ask of you is when you have your dark moments with your baby—when you're at your wits' end and feel like you can't go on anymore, when you're only getting an hour or two of sleep a night—instead of begging your child to go to sleep and being swallowed up in your frustration and exhaustion, find the tiniest bit of strength within you to keep going, and say a prayer of gratitude for your child, as difficult as it may be in that moment. And if you would, say a prayer for me and all the mothers whose children were taken from them too soon. Say a prayer for my sweet, sweet Eleanor who never got to know life outside my womb."

These words have been weighing heavily on my heart. My kids are no longer babies, but we're entering this new stage that, at times, seems even more difficult than the newborn stage . I mean, babies are exhausting, there's no doubt about that, but they're also cute and tiny and adorable. My kids are still cute, but they're also sassy.

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My son, who is now four, has been testing the boundaries lately. He will argue and tantrum and disobey—it's exhausting in a whole new way. I often feel frustrated with his attitude and find it difficult to enjoy even being around him. My husband and I will wonder to ourselves what we can do differently to parent him more effectively.

I was really starting to feel guilty about not enjoying my son. I love him, that has never changed, but I honestly was not enjoying him. I've been reading a book called "Surprised By Motherhood," by Lisa-Jo Baker. In it, she recounts how her middle son was quite the handful. She describes one particular outing to Annapolis when her son was downright relentless in his poor behavior. She had reached her breaking point.

I think I've realized that if I'm not enjoying my four-year-old, it's my fault not his. After all, I'm the adult, I'm the parent here.

She decided that it had been too long since she enjoyed her son. She began to take a good long look at herself. She prayed and fasted. She committed to listening more and apologizing for her own short fuse. She decided to write her son's own narrative, how she wanted to see him. She would often pray over him as he slept.

And, you know, there really is nothing like watching and praying over your kids while they're sleeping. I often sneak into my kids' room at night just to see them. I will look at my son and marvel over his long limbs and pouty lips. His cheeks aren't as round as they used to be, but they're still soft and kissable as ever. In those still quiet moments my heart always grows for him. It doesn't matter what nonsense happened throughout the day, it all melts away when I watch him sleeping.

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I think I've realized that if I'm not enjoying my four-year-old, it's my fault not his. After all, I'm the adult, I'm the parent here. I need to breathe deep, increase my patience, pray for a change in my own attitude, see my son in a new light, help him to name his feelings, focus on his good qualities. I look at him now and am amazed at his big-ness. He blows me away with how smart and mature and sweet he is.

Yes, he is a challenging child, but I don't want that to keep me from enjoying him. I want to take all of him—even his most challenging parts—and I want to help launch him into being an incredible human. He has so much potential and it's up to me and his dad to help him realize it. And from now on I plan to enjoy every minute of it (well, you know, mostly every minute.)

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