As the mother of three young children I am often reminded that they grow up quickly. This cautionary advice may come from a well-meaning stranger or in the form of a shirt with sleeves that are suddenly too short for my child’s arms. No matter the source of the reminder, I am aware of just how fast it goes. I realize this truth, I feel this truth and I try my best to abide by this truth.
But this truth can set me into a mind-swirling panic. I desperately want to freeze time, yet feel it slipping away right through my fingers. During the day-to-day rush of parenting, stuff happens that steals mindshare and sucks energy. This is the minutia of motherhood that can take over while their childhood is racing by; a boo-boo needs a Band-Aid, an argument needs refereeing, a lost toy needs found, and a stained shirt needs changed.
It is not until the end of the day, when the house has quieted, that I’ll catch a glimpse of something and process that another day has passed in this magical stage of their childhood. It might be something as simple as a larger diaper size number on the side of the box or a homework paper sitting on the kitchen table containing advanced math facts that mock me. In these still moments, the voices of the well-meaning strangers begin their whispered reminders in my ear and I’ll worry, “did I really enjoy my children today?”, “how did they get so big?”, “where is the time going?”.
They are growing up right before my eyes. With children aged 11, 7 and 4 our family is firmly out of the baby stage. I’ve mothered my last toddler and potty-trained for the final time. During this upcoming school year we’ll be skipping between three stages and three schools as we claim a preschooler, grade-schooler and middle-schooler. Even as I type those words I can’t believe it! It seems like just yesterday that we were swaddling them as newborns.
With a nod and tip of the hat to those well-meaning strangers, they were right. It all is going fast….so incredibly fast! But I can’t stop time, so I’ve decided to embrace it.
For starters, at this delightful stage of childhood, my kids are able to feed themselves, bath themselves, and organize themselves (…mostly). They are a lot easier to travel with. I don’t have to collapse a pack-n-play in a cramped hotel room ever again!
Plus the kids are fun to be around. Our 11-year-old can sincerely make me laugh with his quick wit and jokes. His friends are entertaining and we can play a competitive game of cards or watch a movie together that we enjoy as much as he does. Our 7-year-old can teach me things as she repeats facts she learned in school or remembers tidbits about her favorite soccer players. Our 4-year-old can pick out her own clothes and knows to clean her room or make her bed.
Certainly this stage comes with its downfalls too. For example, they argue with each other and let me know when they disagree with me. They have opinions and they share them….a lot. Our family calendar feels busier than ever with various activities and school projects. Now I realize that the expense of diapers and baby food pales in comparison to activity fees, braces and big kid shoes.
In all of its imperfections and beauty, I simply need to accept this stage as a gift because it too is passing. I’ve said before that the passage of time is the cruelest paradox of parenthood. In some moments, I can’t wait for it to pass or for my child to outgrow a particularly frustrating stage or age. While at another moment, the realization that our children are growing up can cause my heart to break wide open.
I can spend my time thinking about how they aren’t as little as they used to be, or busily make plans for their future. Or I can choose to use this time to enjoy my children right now. And right now, I may no longer have a baby to rock to sleep, but I have a grade-schooler to accompany on a bike ride. We might stop by the library to log her hours into the summer reading program, or get some ice cream. She has her own favorite flavors and books to read that she picks out herself. But she still needs me to help snap on her bike helmet. So I’ll secure her helmet, and as we take off on two-wheels, the wind will hit our face. I’ll feel the bumps of the sidewalk under our tires but she won’t notice. She’s too busy excitedly chatting about her favorite Muppets character. I will smile, understanding that this moment is sacred and this moment is important. In fact, this moment is just as sacred and just as important as those moments when I held her in the twilight, stared at her milky cheeks and longed for sleep. It seems like it was just yesterday.
This post originally appeared on Mum.info.