Is there anything in the world more beautiful, more frustrating, more fulfilling, more draining, or more totally consuming that being a parent?

I feel like I’m seeing the full prism of parenting these days.

Reagan is 10 years old. I look at it as I’ve halfway got her raised. And as I look around at other parents who have children of all different ages, I find myself looking at my own parenting experience through that prism.

The parents of the baby girl just turning a year old this week: looking at them I remember when Reagan was little and the things that amused her then. Books, always books. Little people – toys and videos – Farmer Jed was pretty much a member of the family. Seeing her smiling face when I’d go get her out of the crib in the mornings. Watching her learn new words, new objects, developing favorites.

The parents of the toddler that is full of defiance and drama: By 3 years old, Reagan already had a mind of her own. Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn. I’ve always said that the 3s are WAY worse than the “terrible twos” and I fully stand by that observation, having worked with other toddlers besides my own. But that age was also one of discovery. One where consistency was SO very important and had it not been for my husband and his help, I probably would have lost my mind.

The parents of the adolescent: Reagan and I are approaching this milestone faster and faster. I already see signs of hormones, self-doubt, frustrations with peers and authority. This is going to be a challenging time. One that requires a lot of patience and grace. I spend a lot of mornings already counting to 10 because of some unexplainable meltdown that has been had but I also understand that being a female means not always understanding your own emotions, but learning to control them and not letting them control you is a lesson that I hope to relay gently and successfully to my daughter.

The parents of the teenager about to get their driver’s license: Oh lord. Help us all. I’m going to be a ball of nerves about that one. I’ve already told Shey that he’s teaching Reagan to drive. I’ll do everything else – deal with everything else – but the driving…..ugh. How do you teach someone to drive who already knows everything? Hmmm…guess I’ll ask my dad how he did it.

The parents of the soon-to-be high school graduate who will be heading off to college: I want higher education for Reagan SO badly. But I know first-hand how sometimes our hopes and plans go awry. So I don’t try and lay out her future for her. But I see such intelligence in her. Such a brilliant mind. I want to see her grow and develop that and more than anything, I want her to know, even after she has learned a lot, there is more information and truth out there than she can ever understand and I want her to be humble, always willing to listen and see things from a different point of view and weigh it against reason and truth.

The parents of those who struggle with addiction and life choices that have crippled them in one way or another: I hope this is never me. I truly, truly hope that this is never me. If there is any feeling in the world that is absolutely miserable, it is one of helplessness – especially helplessness as a parent. I pray that Reagan avoids all those things that would become a crutch to her – food, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or even another person. Co-dependency is an ugly thing. I pray that the independence I see in Reagan will be strong enough to push her through the times in her life where she is being pressured.

The parents whose children are now looking after them: I pray that I am never a burden to my daughter. I pray that I make the right choices regarding my future that she never has to sacrifice to take care of me in my old age. I pray that she will not fall deeply into grief when I leave this world, that she will rejoice at where I have gone and look back on our relationship with fondness and peace.

There is nothing in this world like loving a child. Like watching them grow up. Like knowing you are responsible for their lives. I have spent many an hour worrying about what kind of parent I was being. I’m learning that the most important thing is that I am PRESENT. Not only physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Everything else is just details.

The job comes second or third.

The housework can wait.

It’s okay to spoil their supper sometimes.

One more chapter is almost always worth it.

Starting the morning off with the right attitude is paramount to the rest of the days success.

It hurts to punish but you punish behavior, not the child.

You can over think anything.

Don’t be afraid to let them fail.

Above all, make sure they know, no matter anything else, that they are loved. Absolutely, unconditionally, eternally.