I sat in the parking lot, waiting for my oldest son to walk out of the building where he was completing his first evening at his first job. I sat there thinking back over the years and wondering where the time had gone.
Once upon a time, I carried this human inside my body. I battled morning sickness and swollen ankles. I cried in the bathtub when I saw how deep the stretch marks were on my belly because I was growing this person inside of me. I remember the fear that made my heart seem to stop when the doctors told me they would first have to induce labor. And then when he still was too stubborn to be born, I remember crying because he would have to be cut out of me.
I also remember the first time I set eyes on him, though. I remember the sound of his first cries, and I remember that feeling of awe when he was placed in my arms. I knew then why I was placed on this earth–and that was to care for this particular child.
I remember, all too well, the fear of new parenthood. How hard it seemed to be to change his clothing, testing and retesting his bathwater, worried it would either be too hot or too cold. I remember sitting up during the nights trying to breastfeed him and the feeling of failure when he couldn’t take my milk. And then the feeling of relief when he drank his first bottle of formula and not only kept it down but also slept solidly for the first time in his life, thus meaning I could sleep solidly, as well.
And then I blinked and along came his little brother.
Along came his little brother, and I thought I had it all figured out having been through it once already.
But instead of being sick once a day in the morning as I was with the first, this second child had me feeling like I was on a roller coaster from 6-weeks pregnant to 36-weeks pregnant. I was always nauseated. I became depressed and lethargic, I dealt with iron deficiency and then a feeling of inadequacy because I was too tired and drained to be an active participant in my oldest child’s life.
I blinked and the pregnancy was over, and I was looking down at my beautiful second-born child. I knew once again why I was put on this earth, and that was to parent this particular child as well.
I blinked, and my little one was learning to walk and my oldest was in the third grade. I watched with amazement as a 7-year age gap seemed to mean nothing to these two boys of mine. Big brother doted on little brother, helping me to care for the little one, sometimes chastising me for my parenting opinions.
“He has to learn!” I cried as big brother scooped little brother up while he was trying to learn to walk.
“He can learn with pillows nearby,” big brother said with an annoyed look at me, and my heart melted. Little brother’s first word was big brother’s name, and he cried when big brother left for school each day.
I loved their love.
I thought about the privilege it’s been to parent these two amazing individuals as I sat in the dark parking lot waiting for my oldest to come out and regale me with tales of his first day in the working world. I remember carrying him in my body, and now he was making his own money and excelling in school and barely home at all. I missed him already, and he hadn’t even left the nest yet.
Lucky me, I have my little one who has years before he’ll be where my oldest is.
Lucky me, I get to experience parenthood twice. I get to see life through their eyes and their varying perspectives. I was so busy worrying about my oldest and trying so hard to be the perfect parent, that I feel like I missed a bunch of the experience. I still raised him to be an amazing person, but I wish I would have cherished the moments more . . . because I blinked, and it’s almost over.
So now when my little one babbles to me about a video game or wants to curl up next to me and watch a movie, I make a point to take in the moment. To notice the way his hair falls across his forehead and the way he belly laughs at the funny parts. Because if I blink, this part of my parenting journey may be over, too. And I don’t want to miss a bit of it.