We are at the park. I offer to push him on the swing.
“It’s okay Mommy, I can do it.” And he pumps his little legs as hard as he can, climbing higher and higher. When did he learn how to swing?
I kiss her goodbye as I drop her off at school, no longer having to bend down to reach the top of her head.
“Oh Mom,” she says, rolling her eyes. When did she stop calling me mommy?
We are on our first hike of the summer, climbing up a steep hill. I reach down to offer him my hand.
“Mama, I don’t need help.” He scrambles past me, a mountain goat on two legs. When did he become so self assured?
I have been fortunate. I have been a stay-at-home mom since the birth of my first child. I didn’t plan on staying home. Before I had kids I just assumed I would have it all. I would have a successful career, a great marriage, and well-adjusted kids, all balanced in perfect harmony. But having it all comes with a price. Added stress, guilt, exhaustion and time. Never enough time.
It was a price I wasn’t willing to pay.
I have spent the majority of the past nine years with my three kids. I have watched my children grow and witnessed each milestone. The first word. The first step. The first day of kindergarten. The first crush. And yet? Somehow I feel as though I must have missed something. As if I fell asleep for too long, which is crazy, because everyone knows that you don’t sleep with babies. Or I blacked out and lost time. Time that has accumulated and snowballed into days, months, years. Moments have flashed by, faster than my eye could capture them. Faster than my heart could hold them. They have slipped through my fingers, grains of sand through an hourglass. Every parent knows the saying, “The days are long, but the years are short.” No kidding.
I am in the parking lot, waiting to pick up my daughter. A stranger approaches. It takes me a full moment to realize, it isn’t a stranger. It is her. Somehow she is taller and older than she should be. Time is fleeing by so quickly my brain can’t keep up.
I stop scrolling on my phone and look up, two blond haired boys bounding into the room, pushing and pawing each other, laughing. I watch them, their heads bobbing, now a foot taller than the counter. I remind myself I need to look up more often.
I’m not going to lie. I have dreamt about this time in my life. Looked forward to these days when my kids were more independent. When they would all sleep through the night. When they could wipe their own bums. When they could put on their own shoes. Heck, when they could actually find their own shoes. And this time? It is amazing. Truly. We are in the sweet spot of parenting, sandwiched between the toddler years and the teen years. There is freedom, and fun, and coffee has become a habit, rather than a necessity for my very survival. There are meaningful conversations and long bike rides together. There are Saturday morning sleep-ins and lazy Sunday afternoon movies.
Isn’t there always a but? I wish I could slow it down. Let it linger. If I never blink again, if I prop my eyes open with toothpicks, if I develop an obsession for Visine, will I feel like I have enough time?
He comes up to me as I sip my coffee. I’m tired. It’s been hours since I last sat down. I just want a few moments to myself. “What is it, Bud?” I ask, slightly annoyed. He looks at me.
“I just want to cuddle with you.”
We’re walking into the grocery store. She skips up beside me and places her hand in mine, her fingers long and slender. She smiles up at me, free for a moment from the ever looming threat of embarrassment of being caught holding my hand.
We’re late for school. I’ve barely applied the brakes and I’m yelling at them.
“Hurry up! Out you go, you’re late!”
He taps on my window. I open it, wondering what he has forgotten this time. He grabs my face in his hands.
“I love you, Mommy.”
These are the moments I hold onto. Polaroid pictures in my mind. I try to memorize their features, the sound of their voices, the soft touch of their hands. Because yesterday is already fading into the distance and today is quickly becoming its shadow. I pause to take in the way they wrap their arms around me and still squeeze me so tight when I kiss them goodnight. I want to remember how they look when I sneak in to watch them sleeping, their arms flung above their heads, the soft sound of their breath filling the dark. I pray the memory of their giggles and easy smiles doesn’t fade with the angst of growing up.
I see the new mom in Starbucks, cradling her baby. I want to tell her, “Hold on tight. It goes by so fast.” But I don’t. Because soon enough, she’ll get it. She’ll be where I am. In this place between holding fast and letting go.