Some reflections about my parenthood life as my youngest child turns 3

OPINION: As often happens on birthdays, I’m spending some time thinking about what life looks like the older my kids get. 

(Photo by Jose Luis Pelaez/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

If you’d asked me when I was, say 25, how many kids I thought I might have, I feel like I would have said two, but definitely not three. Four sounded foreign to me. Forget about it. I grew up in a household with four kids, and while it never seemed that chaotic to me (which I’ve since discovered was purely because of how self-centered children are), two seemed like an ideal number, especially as I got older and realized just how much work even one child could be early on. 

Well, as they say, if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. I am the proud parent of four children (now) aged 14, 8, 7 and 3. My youngest just turned 3 years old and that, of course, is a time for reflection. Some of those reflections are more in-depth than others. For instance, I can’t remember exactly when it happened (though it was well before now) but at some point, my wife and I started getting full nights of sleep again. The bigger kids have all been sleeping all night long and in their own beds for years, and the baby, well, he definitely sleeps all night long but he does it ONLY when he’s in our bed. But, over time, he’s taken to sleeping longer and longer in his own bed, and before I knew it, I was able to sleep the whole night and wake up to my youngest still in his bed, sleeping comfortably and happily. 

The biggest reflection is one that also comes with a new, yet already-experienced sense of trepidation: We’re getting closer and closer to my youngest going to daycare, or as we have in Washington, D.C., Pre-K. As difficult as it is to work with a toddler in my sight and lap all the time, the idea that soon, and very soon, my house will be empty for most of the day as my wife and I work from various spaces has me in my feelings a bit. The noise that once filled up the house at all times will now dwindle down to the house noises, which I’m both looking forward to and slightly anxious about. I’ve gotten used to living life with a certain level of chaos; I’ve even learned to thrive on it — the pandemic taught us all a lot about ourselves. But with no more pandemic and (soon) all the kids in school, the chaos will dissolve, leaving me to hopefully be able to focus in silence. That sounds odd, I know, but nobody said all reflections were good ones. 

In a similar fashion, I’m also reflecting on the day we make our final purchase of a box of diapers. As the baby gets bigger, the fewer diapers that come in the box as we move towards potty training in preparation for school and life. We already spend only a small amount of time in every store’s robust baby section, and soon that section will be all but a memory. Right now, we get wipes and diapers, and they both pretty much stop at the same time. That sounds great, except I’m kind of over how quickly this time has been passing, and the constant reminders that every day we are closer and closer to the last baby thing that ever gets done around here make me a little wistful. Obviously, at 3 years old, we have a few years left of toddler stuff, but by the time he’s 4, we’ll be fully potty trained, in school and have the freedom to work in the peace we desire. It’s both exciting for him and too fast for me. I suppose that’s the parenthood struggle in a nutshell; we all want some peace and quiet while also, perhaps silently not looking forward to getting just that because of what it means: Your kids are growing into the independent humans that we hope they become, and you realize just how fast it goes. For me, it’s coming soon: My oldest will be 15 in January and that means we have three and half years left before she is off to college to find herself and her own version of life. 

Le sigh. I’m blessed to have four healthy, wonderful kids. As much time as I need to myself, I’d rather have them under my wings forever, but that’s unrealistic, and I want them to fly. 

Excuse me, I need to go cry now. 

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

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