Everyone tells me the days are long, but the years are short. They tell me I’ll turn around twice and you’ll suddenly be grown. They tell me I will look back and miss this season of life so fiercely that I’d give nearly anything to revisit one of these typical toddler days with you. And I believe them.
I believe them because I already miss the past versions of you. I look back at photos and videos of your very first year and feel my heart squeeze tight while I let out a sentimental sigh. I remember how average those days felt, but when I look back now, I see how special and heart-wrenchingly sweet they also were.
I know one day I’ll look back at the photos I took today and do the same thing. Because you will only keep growing and changing, and soon you will be a kindergartner, rather than a toddler. And on and on it’ll go. There’s no avoiding that—even if I sometimes wish there were. It would be nice to have a pause button to press every now and then. But the truth is—I don’t want to spend the days we have together now worrying about the end of them. I don’t want to be crippled by pre-onset guilt for having not enjoyed them enough.
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Yes, I realize that eventually, it will seem like these days passed in the blink of an eye. I know I’ll look back and want to relive one of these average days more than anything. But I also know that when I wistfully look back at these first several years of your life, I’ll be able to say, “I saw it all. I was a part of the big moments and the small moments. I soaked up the beauty and love and wonder those years brought. I was there for all of it, and it was truly special.“
I know that when I look back, I’ll remember watching your unsteady steps as you learned to walk. I’ll remember the sound of your precious toddler voice saying, “I love you, Mommy.” I’ll remember how my heart swelled with pride (and relief) when you learned to use the potty all by yourself. I’ll remember how I tried to pay attention every time you yelled, “Mama, watch this!“ I’ll remember that I always sang “one more song” before bed every night you asked me to.
Sure, there were times when I could not play all day long with you because there were important, time-sensitive things I needed to do. Yes, there were times I left you in the hands of a capable babysitter or a relative so I could have some time to myself. And yes, there were days I became overwhelmed by the mental load of mothering.
But for every one of those moments, there was another one when I put my to-do list away and sat down to play cars with you just because you asked. There were days when you tagged along with me to run errands and I’d turn the car radio down so I could hear your little voice singing your own songs in the backseat. Evenings when I pulled the kitchen stool beside me so you could help me make dinner, even if it made a much bigger mess. Afternoons we spent entirely outdoors when I didn’t get a single other thing done, and I loved every second of it.
So dear toddler, rather than smothering you now in fear of the time when you won’t need me as much, I will help prepare you for that time and build a solid relationship with you that’s strong enough to last, no matter what happens or how far away from me life may take you. I will keep living these days intentionally and on purpose as much as I can. And I will let that be enough.
I will kiss your soft cheeks a million times a day until you stop letting me. I will act like a complete nincompoop just to hear you shriek with laughter. I will encourage your endless curiosity, cherishing the role of being your very first teacher. I will pray often for who you are now and for who you will grow to become.
Whether you’re a toddler, a kindergartner, a teenager, or a grown adult, you will always be my child, and I will always be your mama. Nothing, not even the relentless march of time, can change that. Years from now, I will look back on these days with you with the sure confidence that I treasured them, and that I saw—oh, do I see—the magic of these years. I’ll know that the wonder of being your mom was never lost on me. Dear toddler, you may grow up in the blink of an eye, but I will be there for every second of it.