“In five years, you will be the same person you are today except for the books you read and the people you meet.” – Charlie “Tremendous” Jones
I admit, I had to look up this quote to get it right, because I’ve always repeated it as “Next year.” While this concept has always intrigued me, five years sounds like a very long event horizon by which to measure personal progress. Generally, I round up my reflections about lessons learned on a yearly basis. And while the notion of books and people being the only—or even a major—source of change in one’s life seems a bit simplistic, I can’t discount the importance that those forces can bring to bear on one’s character.
Meanwhile, I’ve been considering the relationships I’ve forged or strengthened throughout the past year and the impact they’ve had on shaping my thoughts and actions. Despite the difficulties of socializing with young kids underfoot, we’ve striven to build a sense of community with neighbors and friends. And I do cherish the good friends in my life, though I don’t always have as much time to devote to cultivating these friendships as I’d like.
However, one of the most amazing facets of social interaction is the continuing and ongoing friendship I’m developing with my children. It seems funny to think of my children as viable companions brim full of interest and instruction, since they’re so young and (generally) uninformed, but that’s precisely the point. My kids will always be new people to me, as I constantly meet new iterations of them.
I know I can get bogged down sometimes with the drudgery and the repetition of parenting, the sleepless nights, incessantly drippy noses (didn’t we just get over a cold??), messy diapers, and cranky attitudes that appear so insurmountably pointless when they loom with depressing sameness into a stark and endless stormy sea. (Which attitude is itself borne on a wave of sleepless nights and dreary weather.) But the reality is that these stages do pass, and when we crest a new wave and I catch sight of a familiar shore once again, it has all the freshness and excitement of first discovery.
It never ceases to amaze me how much my kids crack me up. They learn to talk, and they say the most profound and hilarious things. They learn to read, and whole new worlds are opened to their imagination, broaching conversational topics for us to discuss for years on end.
The “baby” is now eight months old, and her laughter, cooing, ticklishness, and growing cognizance of the world about her are the wonder of my life right now. You might think that by baby number six, I’d be inured to the marvel of watching her figure out how to scoot, reach, and start chewing on couch legs. But it’s still just as impressive as when my first baby started crawling, and I’m reveling in watching this drama unfold before my eyes. Surely this is the cutest and most delightful child there ever was.
I can remember times when I would gaze into each child’s eyes and think, “Who are you? Who will you turn into?” And I can’t wait to watch their personalities unfold and blossom. It’s a great unknown, and a fabulous adventure that I’m privileged to share.
I know, of course, that I have a hand in this development. Of course, I exert constant influence on them even as they shape and transform me, changing my ideas on discipline, love, patience, humility, and grace from the theoretical to the practical. It’s a real-time process of watching them grow and feeling myself change, a symbiotic relationship of iron sharpening iron.
It’s been a good year. I can’t wait to see what we’ll learn and who we’ll meet this coming year.