I recently took my elementary schoolers back to the park where we spent many a carefree day when they were toddlers. I wasn’t being sentimental, we just happened to be in the neighborhood and it was a beautiful fall day. But one look around the park threw me into a tailspin of memories.
My children suddenly looked like Jolly Green Giants compared to the preschoolers trying to negotiate the playground. As I looked at the freshly-scrubbed chubby little faces toddling around it occurred to me that this child-rearing thing is all going way too fast for my comfort.
I vaguely remember being awakened two and three times a night, begging my husband to make the midnight trek to the kids’ room; I have an fuzzy recollection that my children threw temper tantrums and embarrassed me with clever remarks in public; somewhere in the recesses of my mind I know I was consumed with fear that my two-year-old refused to eat anything but peanut butter on white bread. But looking at my friendly giants on the playground now, all of that seems so far away and long ago.
For years when my kids were little I listened to experts tell me that I needed to do more for myself, take care of myself, make sure I was nurturing me. “Be sure to nap when they nap” they’d tell me. Or, “hire help so you can relax and rejuvenate.” While I believe wholeheartedly in “date night” and “mommy time,” here’s the part most experts don’t get: I worked hard to get these kids and I’ve earned every milk-stained piece of clothing I own.
I sipped coffee with Mr. Rogers each morning before he died and peeled my fair share of soggy Cheerios off the kitchen floor and I wouldn’t trade that for a corner office in Trump Tower.
I’ve been a working mom and a stay-at-home mom and the outcome is the same those sweet little babies that are so soft and cuddly we could kiss every single square inch of them, will inevitably turn into baggy-pant-wearing teenagers with body piercings and they will do it overnight.
It’s easy to get caught up in the carpool, ferrying kids from one activity to the next, sipping coffee and talking on the cell phone while we do. It’s harder to be truly present in the moment, watching them change and grow before our very eyes rather than be caught off guard when our six-year-old is suddenly sixteen.
Someone once asked Rev. Billy Graham if there was anything that surprised him anymore. His response: “the brevity of life.” I’d have to say, as a parent, what surprises me most is the brevity of childhood.
I’m just trying to enjoy every moment. I can nap later.
Charla Belinski is the author of the column “Are We There Yet?” in the Glenwood (Colorado) Post Independent where she shares her common-sense style and humorous world view on parenting each week. Charla has recently completed her first novel, It Came a Fine Rain. She lives with her husband, Tim, and three children near Aspen, Colorado. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.