Phases of life

“Just about the time I realized you were just going through a phase, you entered another one,” my mother once mused about raising her five children.
I saw that anew last week when we gathered to welcome our 16th grandchild, Daisy Marie, on May 31. Her uneventful arrival left the doctor saying that my daughter “makes it look easy.”
With a loud, long healthy cry of protest, Daisy let us know she finds it so easy and will do her best to challenge her parents to develop enough wisdom to handle three young children.
For now Daisy eats, sleeps and stares at anyone holding her and scratches her face until she learns the fingers belong to her. It’s an easy – if sleep deprived – phase of life for her parents.
Her almost 11-month-old cousin had no protests at life in general. Wearing the smile of the contented little old man, he watched the antics of his cousins and sister, then crawled over to join them. He uses his fingers to grab food, toys and whatever else he can snatch and carry to his mouth as he uses all five senses to learn about the world.
Daisy’s two-year-old sister no longer sucks up information through her senses – nor is she an earth- bound crawler. She joyfully leaps off the earth with both feet. But mostly she plops down and gathers information through picture books. “I read her about 100 books today,” my daughter said when we arrived before the baby’s scheduled birthday.
Mom, dad, any sitting person provides the petite, curly-haired child with a lap and reader for her stack of books – usually about two more than she can handle. Let anyone else touch her books and they incite a small tirade, “No! My bookie! Mine.” Her traveling library of cardboard books and simple readers must be arranged exactly the way she wants them or the cry of the terrible twos will be heard.
Her three-year-old cousin enjoys a good book as much as she does, but the cousin also enjoys a good question. As we traveled to the hospital for her dad to visit his new niece, he pointed out something. She wanted to know why it was there. She followed each answer with the pre-schooler’s perpetual ‘why’ until I said, “You really like the word, ‘why’ don’t you?”
“Yep!” she said.
Her sociable self knew no strangers the day she wore her full-skirted Easter dress to the museum. “You wore your pretty dress today.” “Oh we have a princess,” smiling adults observed.
“Yep!” she agreed and twirled to show off her swirling skirt. As a princess, she has advanced. As she informed me, “When I was a baby I used to ….” Her mother said, “and she also looks ahead to ‘when I am grown up I will be a mommy and have a baby.’”
Her four-year-old cousin called, “Watch me. I can do this now, when I was little, I couldn’t do that, but now I can because I am a big boy.” My husband pulled out a building kit for big boys with nails and boards and helped the lad assemble them. He couldn’t read the instructions, but he recognized pizza places by their signs, learned to read a few words and spent hours at his desk (our coffee table) drawing dozens of pictures. Later he spent at least five minutes explaining each picture to his mother.
If only it all were so academic. He also likes to see how much trouble he can brew using bathroom words. We told him that was baby talk and challenged him to a word duel, “You sour puss, you. You corn husker.” He laughed and tried his own versions.
While he worked on more names, I thought about my children’s adult phases of life. Most entered the job market to pay for college, married and settled into a position using their degree before they began fine-tuning their philosophies of child rearing with each new baby.
With another baby, my daughter and her husband considered their costs and trimmed their budget of previous “must have” items. My visiting son and his wife apologized, but they had to leave earlier than planned to ensure his wife fulfilled the church program she volunteered to do with another woman who had to leave for a family crisis.
As we also packed to leave and allow the family some quiet time to adjust to the newborn, my husband and I reflected we no longer have the energy we had as young parents. Comfortable in our old folks corner, we enjoy visiting, helping, playing and then going home to the quiet, orderly home we never knew when children filled our home. We relished every moment with our growing family, anticipate every visit – and have learned to enjoy this phase of our lives as well.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at