Parenting in Our Mid-30s

A few days ago I gave away the last remaining artifact from our early child-rearing years – the jogging stroller. Cribs came and went. Infant car seats moved on to greener pastures rather quickly. The beloved Ergo was passed on to my younger sister and we’ve been sippy-cup free for some time now. But the BOB Revolution was with us the longest – it went on countless runs and long walks. It was pushed along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It rolled along many beaches – from North Carolina to Maine to Michigan. And it went to Disneyland. That stroller served our family well and letting it go earlier this week was yet another reminder that we’re in a new phase of life.

I never pictured myself as a young mom even though I was only 21 at our wedding. Clay and I spent the first five years of marriage blissfully kid-free and loving life with our dog. We’d offer congratulations when friends would excitedly announce pregnancies and then share a look between us that said “I’m glad it’s not us!” We knew we wanted children eventually but we were in no hurry – after all, we were young and had plenty of time to start a family.

But then we received word that Clay was going to deploy for a second time the following year. For the first time, I felt a desire to add to our family. Clay did too. It’s like we went to bed saying, “Babies are cute and all but ummm…no thanks!” and we woke up thinking, “Huh – should we add a teammate?” At the time, I was aware enough to understand that nestled within my subconscious was a desire to have a piece of Clay in case he didn’t come home from the deployment.

I do think that if there wasn’t a deployment on the horizon, we probably would have waited a couple more years. But nonetheless, we decided to try and gave ourselves an end date because neither one of us had the desire for me to give birth while Clay was in Afghanistan. And wouldn’t you know, our son was born a few weeks before Clay deployed. Looking back, I can’t believe that we decided have a baby in the middle of Clay’s Company Command time with a deployment thrown in for good measure but it felt right at the time, if not a bit a lot scary.

So I was 26 when our son was born, which I consider relatively young – especially when compared to my non-military peers. I was 30 when we brought our daughter home from the hospital and now here I am at 35 with an overwhelming sense of peace and closure as I say farewell to the last tangible piece from the baby years. I’m not sad. I don’t wish my children to be younger. I absolutely adored those years but rather than repeat them, I’m relishing in this new phase of life – one doesn’t require a jogging stroller.

We’ve known for quite some time that our family is complete. Even so, it sometimes catches us off-guard that we’re no longer immersed in a world that requires the cutting up of grapes. For Clay and I, watching our children grow and become more self-sufficient is a reminder of our own mortality as well as a beautiful gift that we don’t always feel lucky receiving. Parenthood is hard. Yes – the baby years are in the rear-view mirror but I’d argue that our children need us now more than ever. The next 12-13 years will be a whirlwind of homework, sports, music lessons, friends, puberty, dating, driving, and college applications. Before we know it, the kids will be leaving the nest and Clay and I will be in mid-40s entering a new phase of life. So we better make this one count.

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