The phrase in the title of this post is one that sends shivers down the spines of most parents, especially when uttered by your offspring just a short while into a long journey. That sense of dread and foreboding can sink even the most buoyant of hearts.
Some of you may even have heard that phrase uttered by your children on journeys this weekend when travelling to visit friends or family for Christmas. For our kids, these words are often nothing more than an over-flowing of excited expectation about what awaits them at the end of the journey. Or just plain boredom!
At this time of year, that sense of expectation is probably at an annual high as your kids wait for all that’s in store on 25 December (as heightened by this mysterious and unnecessary 25th door on my daughter’s advent calendar!)
However, that’s not really what this post is all about.
We can all learn ways to deal with those back-seat-of-the-car protestations, but perhaps that phrase has a much deeper meaning when it flies through the head of many parents.
So often we long for the end of the current ‘phase’ of parenting. We strain our eyes to see the distant horizon, or limp along towards the oasis in the desert when we crave for things start to get easier. Have you ever found yourself looking forward to the months or years around he corner (‘We must nearly be there by now!’), and forgetting to completely engage with the challenges and joys of whatever you and your kids are going through in the present?
I’ve heard all the wisdom of more experienced parents with their jaded views of the different phases of their kids’ lives : ‘It never gets easier’, ‘You never stop worrying’, or even ‘The only thing that changes is they get more expensive’. I’m not going to argue with those who have the battle scars to prove it, but is that really what it’s all about? Do I have to settle for that disheartening view of my children’s development, while I develop as a parent? No, gladly.
Several friends have recently set out on the parenting journey for the first time, and I’ve been trying to recall what those first few phases are like. The main thing that springs to mind is the constant re-adjustment as the routine changes, or as you try new ways of dealing with the seismic changes in your child’s eating/sleeping/playing habits (which can appear to be almost daily). I regularly found myself thinking ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ when totally desperate to get enough rest in order to function the following day!
But (as the voices of experience suggest) do we ever actually get ‘there’? Is there a time in the future when I can look forward to serenity and peace in my life and parenting?
Maybe not, but I can choose to relish each phase of parenting to the maximum. I can choose to enjoy the delight in my kids’ eyes as they explore, learn and experience new things. I can choose to endure the tough times because that perseverance of getting through together (with my wife and children) will strengthen the bonds between us and be the foundation of the better times that lie ahead.
Even though the end of your difficult ‘phase’ may sometimes feel a long way off, don’t just sit there and wait for the journey to end. We all know that’s a sure-fire way of making the subsequent period of time seem to last forever!
So, whichever part of the journey you’re on, and however arduous it may feel at the moment, hang in there! And have a Happy Christmas.