Being the baby of the family, I find it second nature to roll my eyes at someone recounting a memory or formulating advice or telling me what to do. Because my mother can tell you, no one really can tell me what to do. Even at a young age, I decided that. I chose a career in teaching where essentially, I tell teenagers what to do all day long. I bristle when my husband tells me what to do and am quick to fire back when my kids make a bossy remark or an impolite request. I’m often the friend who gets everyone together or suggests an outing.
Essentially, I’m in charge. I call the shots. We do what I say we do (or so I think).
As a young mother, everyone says it. “Enjoy it, Appreciate it. Don’t rush it. Don’t wish it away. Try to journal it. It will be over before you know it.”
Well, guess what? To this morsel of advice bestowed upon me by many-a-Mama, I listened. I appreciated, I journaled, I slowed it down and ate up. Every. Last. Minute.
And it still flew by. It still got out of my grasp. It still snuck up on me. Like housework and laundry and dust bunnies.
It happened. So fast. And I still feel like I missed it.
Sometimes I will find a video on my phone or a too small shirt that fell behind the dresser or a note one of them wrote to me and think “When did this happen? How did I miss it? Why don’t I remember that day, that shirt, that voice, that note, that moment?”
Because the day to day and the month to month and the season to season and the holiday to holiday become a part of the fiber of your life. The moments are but pixels on those fibers that connect from event to event to event to year to year to year. And pretty soon, you’re six and a half years into parenting and you feel like you know nothing. Babies are something you used to get, toddlers are something you understand like a class you took last semester. Sleepless nights are like a wild frat party you once went to but can’t believe you survived. Making baby food is like signing up for a class at 8 am. Oh you were so young and naive.
But the now and the who and the what of today are what dominate your parenting. There’s not a lot of time to look back.
Except when there is.
Except when you look and there are little people, real PEOPLE in your rearview mirror. Real people with ideas and thoughts and opinions and preferences and little moral compasses. Real people with political leanings and informed decisions. Real people with worlds of their own. Worlds you are welcome into but sometimes only in an ancillary way. On special person’s day or when they have a sliver or they need help with a science project. You are not the nap-snuggler or the milk-maker anymore. Just the Lunch Packer, the Bedtime Enforcer and the Writer of Notes. Driver of the Station Wagon. Facilitator of the Netflix.
Today, I was the Mom of a kindergartener and first grader. Today, I was an adult with paperwork and medical forms and test results and words of encouragement for my little girl. Today I was a different kind of grown up. Like Toto, we aren’t in Kansas anymore.
It seems like parenthood is this secret room. The room behind the bookcase, the secret passageway of life. There’s so many wonderful books to sift through that sometimes you get lost in your own wonder. You get lost and forget how long you’ve been in there. You get fooled by the broken clock just inside the passageway. You return from the passageway older, more serious, softer.
In looking at the little spirit we raised today going through the paces of kindergarten screening, I felt like an imposter. Both feet fully planted into “School-Aged Mom and Dad” life, we schmoozed, we chatted with the teachers, we smiled proudly. I gulped back Mama tears. The tears that mean nostalgia, sadness, loss. And, together, we readied ourselves for another beginning, another ending—another passageway to open.
So, listen when people tell you it goes fast. Obey their advice. Do your damnedest to freeze it. But know, that still, you will be sitting stunned at a kindergarten screening someday— wondering where the time went.
And stay in the secret passage, relish in it in all of its cacophony and chaos. And at night, sneak into their rooms, smell their heads and lay next to them. Because, hey, even if they squirm and grimace when you kiss them in public, there’s a special secret passageway for parents into their bedrooms at night.