The last ten years passed quickly. Lots of people told me, “The days are long but the years are short.” But, truthfully, it’s hard to gauge that saying when you are chronically exhausted and in the thick of non- stop parenting.
The days and nights tended to morph, one into another. My family attempted to carve out routines in the midst of this long, ever changing season. Some of those spaces involved watching television together. Together, we snuggled while laughing at the silly antics of these fictional friends. Life seemed to move at a slower pace. Sometimes, on those woke-up-on the-wrong-side-of the-bed days, we simply basked in their presence. Humor and familiarity can be a balm for the soul. Other times, we engaged. I marveled at the small steps of progress in development made by my kids. They learned to solve problems, reinforce manners, encourage imagination, teach new skills and become informed about others different from ourselves. These characters became daily familiar faces to my children. Virtual friends, if you will. I won’t pretend that hearing the theme songs for the umpteenth time didn’t rattle my brain at times. But it had a way of growing on me. It bonded us.
But eventually, we no longer hunted for clues. We stopped blaming Swiper (although I still find myself yelling “vamanos!” when we are quickly trying to get out the door). These fictional friends gradually moved out of our sphere as my kids began new, different adventures and learned how to troubleshoot on their own. Learning to be “useful engines” began to disappear as they found purpose. The words they learned became catalysts for getting lost in a book.
A woman once told me that each stage is better than the one before it. I suppose that is true. But, once in a while, I yearn for a touch of those things from the past that brought simple delight. I still squeal when I pass by the baby clothes at the store, The no-filtered wonder of a preschooler brings a smile to my face. And the sight of these quirky fictional friends from TV remind me of those gifts of time that have been shared along the way.
I confess that I hadn’t really noticed their absence until recently. It happened while my son and I were waiting for his doctor’s appointment. Some of them reappeared on the television in the waiting room. We sat there, my 19-year-old son and me. There was something about the image and voice talking from the monitor that made my heart happy. Truthfully, I was drawn in. My mind instantly uploaded those images of the two of us some 15-plus years ago cuddling on the couch. I tried to stimulate a bit of nostalgic conversation, but he brushed me off. How did we get here already?
Finding a common routine is getting harder. Work and school schedules don’t always line up according to my wishes. Our interests are more diverse and we don’t always share the same ones anymore. Life moves at a quicker pace. We are challenged to carve out time and new ways to build relationships. It’s not bad—just different.
A few months ago, I found myself alone on a weekday morning. My entire family was spread about different places. In the midst, the experience at the doctors office still lingered in my memory. Walking over to the television, I flipped through the channel until I found a few of them. And I invited them in, while I engaged in writing; ironically a fulfilling path that has emerged for me in this new season. Life is unfolding as it should, but, it feels uncomfortable at times. My children are becoming more independent and it’s causing me to adjust to a new rhythm. But, sometimes I grieve a bit for the old one.
Someday, we will connect again. Once again, snuggles will ensue, learning together will take place, repetitious (and sometimes annoying) songs will surface. New relationships will be built. Bonding will take place. Maybe I will even meet some new fictional friends. For right now, I will cherish the new ways my family connects with each other, because these moments will one day become memories as well.