I still remember the scene: I was standing in my kitchen surrounded by cardboard boxes, packing tissue was scattered across the floor, my ankles were swollen from 7 months of pregnancy, and there in the screen of my video monitor was my growing toddler napping peacefully in his crib. How were we going to do this? We had sold our house and needed to move in the next couple of weeks. I had planned to move our toddler to a big bed so I could use his crib for the new baby. We were also planning to potty-train to eliminate the cost of two children in diapers. It all felt very overwhelming.
I remember that scene so well because it was a watershed moment. Although the tasks at hand seemed so insurmountable, I came to the realization that they just required me to take one step at a time. We moved. Our toddler potty-trained with success and his crib was handed down to his baby sister as planned. That same crib was just recently handed down to our 5th child. We’ve moved two more times and we’ve potty-trained three more children. Of course these aren’t the only transitions you’ll face in parenting, but as I’ve experienced these, I have learned a few things along the way.
- Be Prepared
Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house. Proverbs 24:27
We wouldn’t have gone into potty-training without first buying the underwear, stocking up on treat-rewards, and of course reading the Potty-Training 1-2-3 book! Same with moving from a crib to a bed. How is the child’s self-control? How is his 1st time obedience? Preparing for this transition requires these virtues to be in place. We currently have a pre-teen son at home who is about to enter the adolescence stage of life. We are reading all we can so we will know how to best handle this transition with him. Most transitions can be anticipated. Your baby will start to crawl; how will you keep her occupied so you can cook dinner or shower? (Buy a playpen) Think ahead to upcoming transitions in your family and how you and your spouse can prepare for them.
- Stay Mindful
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9
I would like to snap my fingers and sail through transitions. I’ve found the ‘sailing’ increasingly more difficult with subsequent children. My expectation is for them to follow their older sibling’s path: sleep through the night at the same age, potty-train at the same age, and respond the same way to discipline and correction. The reality is we are all unique and our children are no exception. Transitions will look different for each child and we need to stay mindful of this. There will be failed attempts and frustrations, but it doesn’t mean we are failing as parents. We just may need a new approach. Our 4th child really struggled to sit with the family during dinner time. He would want to get out of his high chair before the meal was over. Dinnertime became a battle. Why was he so much harder to train than our others? We came to realize that he didn’t have the same level of self-control because it wasn’t practiced as much. We ordered groceries online, so he never sat in a grocery cart while I shopped. We didn’t go out to dinner as much as a family anymore either, so he wasn’t used to sitting in a restaurant. Our lifestyle had shifted since we had our first two children. This realization led us to focus on self-control training more at home.
- Make it Memorable
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
Celebrate the transitions and enjoy the defining moments. In the busyness and chaos of the daily routine, we can easily pass over the opportunities to turn transitions into memorable milestones. Find unique and creative ways to celebrate. A couple of summers ago, we found a house that better suited our family’s growing needs and we made an impulse decision to move. It required a lot of work: packing up our current house, renovating the new house, and multiple trips back and forth. Our summer plans went out the window as we focused on the move. A couple of days after moving in, we surprised our children with a fun family vacation to Florida – it commemorated the hard work of the summer and celebrated the transition to a new community. Not all transitions are rewarded with such grand celebrations, but choosing to elevate the moments helps make our transitions memorable.
Change can be hard, and transitions usually signify leaving behind what is comfortable. But they also mean moving forward to what’s ahead.
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.
Blaire Johnson is a stay-at-home mom to four children ages 9, 7, 5 and 18 months. She and her husband, Travis, have been involved in the GFI ministry since 2008 and have led classes since 2012. They live in Mt Pleasant, South Carolina.