The other day my 17-year-old daughter asked me if I wanted to see a movie. I was mid-house-and-bathroom-cleaning, and this took me by surprise. Partly because I can’t remember the last movie I didn’t watch on my couch and partly because my 17-year-old daughter doesn’t typically ask me to the movies.
So, even though I desperately needed the time to get stuff done, I looked up showtimes.
Moments like these remind me to slow down and be in the moment with my kid who is so close to leaving the nest. But they can also make me think of all the times I didn’t slow down . . . during the sometimes-vexing younger years of diapers and Play-Doh and school pickup.
And I’m tempted to let the floodgates of regret come rushing in as I think about how swiftly this next year will go.
It’s June; Kate will start her senior year this fall and I know firsthand how rapidly it’s going slip through my fingers. Her older sister graduated two years ago, so I’m keenly aware of how fast time passes.
But as moms, we don’t need a graduating senior to know that time is a relentless thief. We bear witness to the speed at which our kids steadily hit each milestone, seem to grow before our eyes, and suddenly, we’re celebrating another birthday and wondering how we got there.
I can still feel their infant bodies on my chest, their heavy toddlerness on my hip, and their little hands in mine. I can still smell their sweet, milky baby breath, remember when they could fit perfectly in my lap, and hear their giggles from the next room.
Their wide eyes, arms reaching up, and legs wrapped around my waist . . . recalling it all with such a visceral slam that the too-bright nostalgia can be overwhelming.
And in the same moment, with the relentless ooze of guilt, I can just as easily bring forth days when I was exhausted, sick of cleaning, tired of being so constantly touched and needed. When I was just trying to make it to bedtime so I could have an hour of peace, a show that wasn’t Sesame Street, and a glass of wine.
Motherhood is such a complicated journey.
This beautiful, ruthless thing—to watch these girls I carried, rocked, fed, and nurtured; the ones I read and sang to, yelled at, kissed, hugged, and loved with the depths of my soul, who were once so bound to me—go off to be their own people.
I can logically recognize this is the whole point of raising kids—they are supposed to grow up, be independent, and leave. I know this. And I genuinely cherish my relationships with my daughters as they get older.
But there is this primal, almost panicked instinct to want some of that time back. Those chubby faces, tiny bodies, and little voices. Those days of pretend kitchen, playgrounds, and swim team. The realization that we’ll simply never be there again carries with it a kind of grief that I can sometimes feel in my bones.
And yet, some of the best adult conversations I have are with my grown-up daughters. I don’t just love them, I like them—I think we’d be friends if I wasn’t their mom (or 30 years older). They’re insightful, interesting, and funny. I love this stage of adultish kids and look forward to the rest because it just gets better.
It’s everything at the same time—the yearning for the past, the excitement for the future, the relentless pursuit to stay focused on the present.
Holding all of that at once feels chaotic, like I’m the vessel for every version of my children. The lumpy infants, the soft toddlers, toothless schoolkids, emotional teenagers, and the burgeoning adults. As moms, we’re carrying entire lives, whole worlds within us.
Usually, we go about our days as the constellations of our experiences knit themselves into our hearts. But occasionally, there’s a moment that reminds us. Like a cosmic tap on the shoulder, a beckoning finger inviting you to look inside.
As your gaze shifts inward, part of you cracks open, and you glimpse the universe you’ve made. All the infinite pieces that make up their lives and yours . . . it’s all there and it fills you up, warms your face, and feels like forgiveness.
It’s fleeting, like time and childhood and everything else in life. But it’s long enough to remind you it will all go by too fast but no matter how quickly it goes, it will all continue to be written in the stars within you.
And so, on a day in June, you put everything down and, warmed by the light of your own internal sun, you say yes.