From the moment you were born, those words have been spoken to me more than any others. From doctors and nurses, family and friends, and whoever just so happened to settle their gaze on your precious face.

But mostly it was the older ladies at the grocery store who gave me that well-worn wisdom, the ones who had finished their own chapter of raising kids many years ago.

“It goes by so fast,” they would tell me as I rushed from aisle to aisle, filling my cart as fast as I could before you needed to eat again. Before your cries rang out, causing my heart to race and my feet to scurry through the checkout line.

And I would resist an eye roll and offer a fake half-smile because those early days, those first few years felt like the longest, slowest days of my life.

They told me your baby years would go by fast. And as I brushed the sleep from my ever-weary eyes, I didn’t believe them but I hoped they were right. I didn’t want those long nights to last for long. Or the diaper blowouts. Or the lugging around a weighty diaper bag, and infant carrier, and stroller.

They told me your toddler years would go by fast. That as time went on, you’d be less inclined to tell me every thought that whizzed through your head. That one day, you wouldn’t greet me so early in the morning – that I’d instead be greeted by grumbling upon waking you. That before I knew it, you’d be potty trained, able to dress yourself, and asking for privacy. And again, I didn’t believe them, but I hoped they were right. I longed for a few minutes of silence. I dreamed of sleeping in. I wanted a little more time for my hands to be free.

The thought of mothering an older child seemed nothing more than fantasy, but as I watched your tiny baby body morph into that of a toddler before transforming into a full-blown child, you proved they were right.

While those early years aren’t much more than a blur of nursing and cleaning, scrubbing and feeding, wiping and weeping, the memories of what was are etched into my heart. And looking back, those first few years seem shorter now than they felt then. Your days as a baby and toddler seem like quick stops on our journey together. With not enough time to have fully taken in the scenery.

Thoughts of those long nights and early mornings remind me of your downy head resting against my chest. And your chubby fist gripping my finger. And the singing that roused me from a never-enough sleep. And your smile that both started and ended my day.

If I’d have known they were right, I would have taken one more moment to run my fingers through your soft baby hair and study your toothless grin and examine your tiny fingers.

And when I think of those long days, I remember your diapered bottom I loved to pat. And your endless thighs that were irresistible when they were bare. And the art projects that were nothing more than scribbles, but melted my heart. And how your world revolved around me. If I’d have believed them, I’d pat that little bottom once more and squeeze those thighs and hold you close instead of encouraging you to do something on your own.

You taught me they were right. That it really does go fast, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

So when your brother was born, I knew better than to hope it would go by fast. The second time around, I knew the slow-moving days of babyhood and toddlerhood were passing by more quickly than my brain could comprehend. I knew the long nights wouldn’t last for long, the sharp cries would one day stop, and that before long, I’d be able to leave the house with nothing more than a wallet, maybe a purse. I knew in just a few short years, I’d look back and long for just a taste of those early days with your brother, just like I did for you.

The days are still hard and long and often frustrating, for motherhood is never easy. But when I’m desperate for a break from it all, I remember what you’ve taught me.

It all goes by so very fast and the days spent with the small versions of you two are a treasure I hope to never bury.

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Jenny Albers

Jenny Albers is a wife, mother, and writer.  She is the author of Courageously Expecting, a book that empathizes with and empowers women who are pregnant after loss. You can find Jenny on her blog, where she writes about pregnancy loss, motherhood, and faith. She never pretends to know it all, but rather seeks to encourage others with real (and not always pretty) stories of the hard, heart, and humorous parts of life. She's a work in progress, and while never all-knowing, she's (by the grace of God) always growing. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.