As I wait at Target, a young couple pushes a stroller in the line behind me. The stroller, brand new, appears to be on its maiden voyage. I peer at the tiny sleeping newborn, his fingers curled up near his ruddy face.
"You guys do good work!" I comment. The parents beam with pride, but the weariness in their eyes lets me know that they are all still in the process of getting to know each other. The lady behind the couple glances at the stroller as well, and asks. "Is this your first?" They nod proudly. "Just wait," she snorts, and then follows with a comment about unruly teenagers.
Inwardly, I wince. We seem to live in a country overrun by a great lot of negative naysayers when it comes to parenting. I remember hearing comments like that when I was a new (and overwhelmed!) mom. It seemed that many parents were suffering from a chronic case of disappointment and dissatisfaction called "Just-Wait-itis," characterized by the inflammation of impending doom in parenthood... I felt trapped in a swirl of know-it-alls who were warning me that the worst was yet to come.
Of course, now that my kids are teenagers, I know the truth. Parenting is complicated; it's wonderful and challenging. Exhausting and gut wrenching. Heartwarming and heartbreaking.
And, at the outset, parenting can be utterly daunting. It just doesn't help when others douse young parents with stories leading to doubt and despair.
Instead, we seasoned moms could infuse joy into our "just waits." As I regard this weary pair, I think of so many things I could say...
Just wait until your preschool son sees you in the hallway at pick up time and covertly grins and waves to you. (It's the best flirting in the world.)
Just wait until you watch your kindergartner jump off the bus after that first day, triumphant and tired, melting into your arms.
Just wait until your son is up to bat, and strikes out, holding it together despite disappointment. And just wait until the crack of the bat meeting the ball surprises him and he races to first base... safe.
Just wait until your daughter stands up for a classmate who is struggling, and her peers, humbled, apologize.
Just wait until your child, painfully tethered to tubes and machines in the hospital, whispers, "I just want my mommy." (And you are suddenly aware that your presence is more powerful than any prescription.)
Just wait until your son gets his very first summer job and he is, unmistakably, walking taller and more confidently as a result.
Just wait until your child's quick sense of humor makes you double over with laughter.
Just wait until you hear your son invite a friend to church.
Just wait until your daughter receives her first college acceptance and you find yourself overcome with tears... not because she's leaving, but because she's ready.
The baby in the stroller whimpers, breaking my reverie.
I smile at the couple and look them straight in the eye.
"You have so much joy ahead of you," I remark...