Well, we’re seven years in and we’ve managed to side-stepped the whole minivan situation. Regardless, I certainly wasn’t expecting Tater Tot Hotdish to make it on the menu amongst all my hopes and dreams and yet here I am, Mom of the Marshmallow Mattie Family. Not at all where we were headed, but I will keep rolling with it. And so should all of you, because when it comes down to it, we are in the midst of the good old days and from what I’ve experienced they’re short and sweet.

Since that creeping car ride home from the hospital with our first born, both boys have gone on to school. Before I know it, they’ll be married and have children of their own (okay that escalated quickly, but seriously, it is going that fast). I remember the joy, the first time my son called me “mama.” I remember wanting to bang my head against the wall because all I ever heard, all day long, was “mama” as two little boys followed me around. Now, this mama is sitting here all alone.

Yes, it happens just like that. Time has no concern for a mother’s heart. How I prayed time would get tangled up, like the line on my son’s fishing rod, or lost, like my other son’s shoe. If only I could barter with God for a handful of those tummy time moments back. Those were the precious days. The nothing mattered beyond my front door days. I desperately want them back. Their first steps, their first words, I want to relive them all. The bottles, the diapers, the gold fish crackers smashed into the carpet. I’ll even take back the sleepless nights.

Needless to say, I wasn’t the mom popping open a bottle of wine when my kids went off to school. In fact I found myself tiptoeing around a bit of depression with a basket of laundry on my hip. But, then came the evening we were sitting around a board game with a bowl of popcorn, laughing, it finally dawned on me just how good these days are. Never did I image family game night when we purchased our first crib.

The early years were amazing; unfortunately my boys have escaped the baby gate and are ready to experience the world beyond the comfort of their mom’s arms. It is sad, and yet to witness the awe and wonder from a child’s perspective, given the world we live in, is yet another amazing gift in parenting. Everything is new to them: the little is so big to them. My son has been trying to conquer the monkey bars all summer and he finally did it and I couldn’t have been prouder. I don’t remember losing my first tooth, but I doubt I was as excited as I was when my son lost his first tooth.

Whether I like it or not, we are done with Thomas the Train and when I think back to how much I rushed the minutes, coaxing them to hurry, so we could get out the door on time, it makes my heart ache. It gives a whole new meaning to the expression “Stop and smell the roses” because you won’t smell like spoiled milk for long. Had I known that the last time I wiggled my way down the tunnel slide was the last time, we would have stayed five minutes longer, just as they had asked.

However this time around, spoiled milk is the least of my concerns. When I messed up during their early years, looking back the only one who remembers is me. Now some of their first memories are being made. Memories they will take far into life. It’s no longer about making them smile, but teaching them the meaning of happiness. I’m no longer teaching them to tie their shoes, but what it means to never give up when faced with a challenge. Life is no longer about fairytales and happily ever afters, but showing them what they are capable of and the outcome of their actions. Yeah, super heroes are great, but guess what God can do? Talk about a lot of pressure in the new, soon-to-be good old days! And given my track record, I will screw up!

However, one thing I will get right is showing them what real love looks like. It is the one thing that pours out of me, so naturally and so freely. When they are all grown up and look back on the good old days, I pray they remember what love looks like around the kitchen table in our family of four and strive for nothing less.

Jen Miller

My name is Jennifer Miller, but I prefer simply Jen. I live in Hawley, MN. It is a small town built along the railroad tracks and surrounded by fields. I married my high school sweetheart in 2005 and we have two little boys, Jack (5) and Grey (3). Motherhood took me by surprise just before my 30th birthday and since then I have been stay at home mom and have loved every minute of the craziness. I am a staff writer for the Hawley Herald and do most the work from home. Being an introvert it took me out of my comfort zone, but so worth it because I love writing. It is something I do every day and it allows me to be home with my boys.