With all the powerful, gigantic love and joy that comes with being a parent, there is also the cold-sweat inducing self-doubt, pit-in-your-stomach worry, daily guilt, parenting choice remorse, your basic dread, and of course, paralyzing moments of fear.
Our son is eleven and growing up way too fast. He talks about changing the world. He’s a dedicated vegetarian. He recycles without giving it a second thought. He turns off lights behind me to “save the polar bears.” And though he still wears little boy pajamas, he’s now in size 10 men’s shoes. I’m afraid to blink because every time I do, he grows up just a smidge more. He actually lifted me up on the ground today. I’d like to think it’s because I’m light as a feather, but I sadly I know it’s because he’s a freaking he-man. (I’m more paper weight than paper thin these days…)
Our daughter is eight and she is the sweetest person on the planet. I’m serious. The girl does not know how to hate. She wakes up happy and bounds out of bed, excited to start her day. How wonderful would it be to live like that? I haven’t bounded out of bed since 1982. And even then, it must’ve been Christmas or my birthday or something.
I had a moment of clarity the other day when I realized that this is it. THIS is the moment right now that I’ll look back on one day as the “good times.” We say things all the time like “life is too short” and “live in the moment”, but do we? I mean to but I get caught up in the daily tasks—work, cleaning the house, running errands, going through the motions. Tomorrow….tomorrow is when I’ll really live in the moment. But the thing is, tomorrow that moment will have passed.
My kids will only be kids for a little longer. Whenever that thought pops into my head I squelch it down, because the notion makes me nauseous.
I wish I had taken more photos of them when they were babies. I wish I had taken a weekly photo in front of a consistent landmark so I could present them each with a time lapse photo of their growth on their eighteenth birthdays. If you have young kids, do it! Don’t have “parenting regret” like I do.
In a decade, the memory of their smell and the touch of their softy baby skin has faded. I miss them, my little ones. I want to grab every mum I see who has babies or toddlers and warn them. Like some crazy heretic I want to tell them about what’s coming. “Your kids are going to grow up!” I’ll shout. “You can’t see it now, but in what seems like only a moment, your babies will be tweens, and in a flash teens. Hold onto them. Savour each moment. Even the ones where your kids are driving you nuts. These kids of ours grow faster than you can imagine.”
I suspect that what I’m feeling right now is fairly normal. When your first born is almost as tall as you are and he starts spending more time playing sports and hanging out with his friends than with his family, it’s logical to start seeing the writing on the wall and to panic accordingly, right?
And when your youngest child exceeds all expectations by becoming more independent and self reliant than you could have ever imagined, it’s only fitting that feelings of pride will be tempered with visions of her on her own one day—so incredibly exciting to imagine, but…. excuse me while I wipe my tears and snotty nose on my sleeve… also completely heart wrenching.
I can’t also help but worry that I haven’t done enough. Have I spent enough time with them? Have I taught them the right things? I’ve had the best intentions as far as showing them the world around them, but I’ve fallen short when life has gotten in the way. This isn’t some lame plea for kudos. I have totally dropped the ball along the way. I really have.
Avery has demanded so much of my attention. As a child with special abilities, sometimes her needs have overshadowed her brother’s needs. He has never complained. He just wouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t missed out somehow.
A few years ago he and I developed this fun “Learn It Live It” program. We made up a schedule together. Each week we’d learn about a topic and then live it on the weekend. For example, we learned about apples for a week—how they pollinate, the varieties, organic versus non-organic. Then on the weekend we went apple picking and baked an apple crisp. It was fun and I felt like a really good parent in that moment. We had lots of other topics planned. And then, life happened and “Learn It Live It” took the backseat to work and life and appointments and various other tedious bits of crap. And then I blinked, and Sebastian was eleven and not quite as interested in learning it or living it. Frigging blinking. I really need to stop doing that.
I could write a whole list of other grand plans that never happened, but I won’t because it makes me want to puke.
The window is so small. It’s miniscule actually. If we miss it, and we screw up and blink, the window will close and we’ll look up to see our children graduating from Harvard, walking down the aisle and putting flowers on our graves. Wait, that last one was over-the-top. I tend to get a bit dramatic whenever I contemplate my children’s futures.
So let me take a gigantic step back from the dramatic edge I’m standing on. I’m going to try to not beat myself up and just do the best I can and have faith that’s it enough.
Hug your little peeps hard and often. Tell them you love them at least twelve times a day, and be sure to remind them how proud you are of the big people they are becoming. And for the love, stop blinking.