By Mark Sanders, MA
St. Raphael Counseling
Those of us who are blessed to be parents constantly face challenges while raising a family — and the necessity to adjust our expectations, tactics and attitudes. As a father, I have found that this is one of the biggest opportunities for healthy growth. There may also be an “aggressive nostalgia” and a longing for a “better” time from the past that we may not have recognized before now.
When children first arrive, it can be overwhelming. Bottles to heat, diapers to change, getting chores done and paying bills can leave any couple battling for their sanity. Over time, as the family adjusts and new practices are put into place, these tasks can become easier. We become accustomed to the pace of life.
However, constant adjustments are required for these little people who have graced us with their presence. Children will
progress from the “feed me and change me” phase to the “come play with me” phase to the “leave me alone” phase as they approach adulthood. Each of these periods of life can be challenging in their own respect as we attempt to meet the mysterious and complicated needs of our children.
There is also a bigger change afoot – that of how to adjust our own expectations to the new realities around us. A family friend, who had children older than ours, told us that “You never know when the last time for something is.” I found this comment both profound and haunting, but I have recognized it in my own life as a father. The question, “When will she sleep through the night and not come into our room?” is replaced with the recognition that she is now sleeping through the night. And despite my previous thoughts on this matter, I really do miss her coming into our room.
As much as we complain about doing the same things every day, we humans become accustomed to our routines. A clinical term for this is called habituation, where we don’t respond as much to ongoing stimuli. At times, we may not even recognize that the stimuli is still there – such as growing accustomed to the ticking of a new clock on the wall. In a similar way, we become used to our lifestyle even as it is constantly changing and adjusting. We also recognize what happens when we are on vacation and our usual sleeping, eating and exercise habits don’t happen.
Regardless of what season in life you and your family are in, I hope that you will find a way to embrace it and look for the blessings that are hidden in plain sight. As one activity replaces another, avoid as best you can the very human need to go back in time and relive things from the past — or you may miss what is in front of you. As the Andy Bernard character from “The Office” wistfully articulates, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the ‘good old days’ before you’ve actually left them.”
St. Raphael Counseling is a comprehensive, community-based psychological service ministry. We offer counseling and mental health services to help restore and strengthen family and parish communities. We are focused on providing assistance to those in need, offering services for individuals, children, teens, couples and families.