Sometimes I lose it.
And by lose it I mean might I yell. And possibly use a sarcastic tone. And basically do the exact opposite of what every parenting book or blog would tell me to do.
Because sometimes parenthood is just hard. And, unfortunately, all of the times I am just a human.
When the dust settles and I am my calm self again instead of my raving lunatic self, I wish for a time machine. I wish to go back and handle myself better. I wish I didn’t have to apologize and regret. Even though I know it’s good to let our kids know we aren’t perfect, I still always wish I could go back in time and keep my cool.
The thing is, if I had a time machine, I wouldn’t have to use it to undo my mistakes. I could use it to avoid making the mistakes in the first place.
Here is what I would do. When my blood pressure is on the rise and I can’t take it another minute, I’d take a deep breath and jump in that time machine and dial back to the past.
I’d travel back to that baby I brought home from the hospital. I’d soak in the perfection of those little eyes opening and looking up at me for the very first time. The feel of those tiny fingers curled around mine.
I’d travel back to that 2-year-old, clutching their blankie and cuddling onto my lap after a nap. I’d soak in the feel of their soft cheeks and the sweet, sleepy smell of their messy hair.
I’d travel back to that 5-year-old learning to ride a bike for the very first time, zipping away from me with such crazy confidence. Then riding back to me grinning with pride so excited to share the joy.
I’d travel back to that 8-year-old, breathlessly running in the house from the bus, ready to tell me every single thing about their day. So happy to back home with me, wanting to help me make dinner or cookies or have me push them outside on the swing even though they were long past being able to do it themselves.
No time machine? No problem. Just use your mind. Imagine yourself going back to those moments. What would you do when you arrived? I’m guessing your answer is the same as mine. Grab that baby, that toddler, that child and just love them right up. We would be so happy to see them again. We would cherish those sweet moments if we could live them again.
The child in front of us in those crazy moments is the same child we lovingly placed in the car seat on the way home from the hospital. And if we can see that sweet baby in that surly 10 year old in front of us, they become much easier to love. And much harder to yell at.
It doesn’t just work when we think of the good moments. The moments we thought we would never want to go back to are just as important.
We could travel back to the night that beautiful, precious baby cried all night and we were quite certain that lack of sleep would lead to our demise, either through death or through going stark raving crazy from walking the floor until our feet hurt.
We could travel back to the crazily dressed 2-year-old who would go boneless in Target, refusing to take another step unless we purchased that Ariel princess costume. I bet we can even hear the lispy voice insisting, “WANT IT NOW MOMMY!” and feel that sweat coming out from every pore of our body.
We could travel back to that 5-year-old refusing to eat anything that was not a donut or wear any clothing that was not his favorite cars shirt or refusing have their brushed or hair put into ponytails.
We could travel back to that 8 year old, suddenly full of sass and opinions and stubborn ideas.
We could travel back to the moments that we thought we could not live through and would not miss for one single second thank you very much sister. And you know what? I bet we would make the same moves when we arrived back that we would in the good moments. We’d grab that baby, that toddler, that child and just love them right up. We’d be happy to be back in those moments, to grab that little piece of the past, I know this to be true.
Now, let’s look again at that child in front of us right now. The one that isn’t listening. The one that is refusing to do the thing. The one that is the fighter or the hitter or the messer. The one that is testing our patience beyond measure.
Pretend we just walked out of a time machine. We are not in this moment for the first time. We have this moment BACK. It is ours again.
We have come back in time from and empty and peaceful and probably, sadly, tidy house. What will we do with this moment?
The answer? Grab that crazy, sassy, infuriating, wonderful kid and love them right up.
Because despite my weird love of time travel, I’m pretty sure we are not actually getting that time machine.
We only have now. Today.
We need to grab on and do the thing we wish we would have done 20 years from now.
Look for the beauty.
Look for the joy.
Look into the eyes of that child or teenager who does not have the perspective you have and be the grown up. Show them how to give love in the face of adversity and disagreement.
Show them what it looks like to rise above the fight about bedtime or eating their dinner or boots borrowed without asking or what time they have to be home.
Show them the love and compassion you would show them as you stepped out of your trusty time machine.
We may need to close our eyes and take giant deep breaths if things are really crazy. These were helpful additions to this strategy when my daughter hit our garage with the car, for example. I was actually able to give her a hug before I did anything else, which may have been a miracle. But I knew time traveling me would have done the same.
Slow down, take a breath and remind them even when they drive us insane, they are loved with the same deep love that we had for them the moment we laid eyes on them.
That same pure, and uncomplicated love is right there and we can use that to see us through whatever they throw at us. We don’t actually need a time machine because we can grasp RIGHT NOW.
We are so blessed to have these moments with our people. Even the smashing into the garage and fights over brushing their hair or anguish over going to bed. They are all a blessing. They are the stories we will fondly tell years from now if we get this one thing right.
We infuse these moments with love.
Because all we have is now and we need to grab it with both hands. Before the moment passes us by.
Oh my word, nothing is as fraught with emotion as the school pick up line. Sitting in my rockin’ white minivan, I can go from inspired, to exasperated, to hopeful, to horrified, to disbelieving, to furious, to wonder (as in wondering if the grown ups in the line all need glasses like me and that’s why they are parking right in front of the No Parking signs) and back to inspired all in the time it takes for my kids to run to my car.
I think one of the underlying issues here is not that we are horrible people, but instead that we don’t realize that our kids activities are really not that important. Life has conditioned us so that the idea of getting our kid to fishing class five minutes late feels like an emergency. Making it home with 45 minutes for kids to change and eat before ballet feels like life or death. Making it to swim class so we can be in line before the teacher calls our kids’ name is the holy grail of our evening.
But it shouldn’t be. We need to breathe deep and override that flight or fight response. It has served humans well over time, but we don’t need it here. In this day and age we no longer have to worry about being eaten by a lion, but our body reacts like we are on the run from one when we are in the school pick up line, waiting to beat the clock.
This is no way to live.
We all need to get a grip. In the past few weeks, I have learned a few lessons we can all get a little something out of. So sit back and join me my friends, each of these lessons applies to picking up, dropping off and also to pretty much any situation in life you can think of where you are around other people.
A few lessons are obvious, simple, and are things my kindergartner is also working on, so he and I can form a support group to get through this if we need to. Things like:
Take turns. No brainer here people. We can’t always be first. For real. Sometimes we need to let other people go before us for safety and to just be a good ol’ human being. Try this in line anywhere and feel your heart swell with the joy of being the nice guy.
Don’t cut in line Loosely related to take turns, this is one a surprising amount of grown ups seem to have forgotten. It’s tempting when you are in a hurry. But remember, there is no lion. We are not being chased and even if we were it would be pretty mean to cut in front of someone else to leave them to be eaten. Luckily, there’s only soccer practice waiting and no one will die from being 2 minutes late.
Stay in your space We’re not dealing with staying on our carpet squares, but instead we are trying to keep our two ton metal vehicles from crashing into each other or into a person. Even more important than staying on your square. We need to be aware of our own space and stay in it. Nosing our way into someone else’s spot could have big consequences.
Use nice words. Even if someone disobeys a rule. Even if we are really frustrated. Even if we really, really want to say a bad word and feel it will cleanse our soul. Just don’t. The kids are watching and in front of an elementary school is not where we want to show off this portion of our vocabulary. Model good behavior even if it kills us. Nice words win in any situation.
Listen to the grown ups The people directing traffic and asking us to obey the rules are here to help. Yelling at them about why we have to abandon our car in the pull forward lane is not helpful. Making them knock on our window and ask us to move our vehicles is a bummer for everyone. Just do what they are asking because we should. Pretty sure we can apply this one to children’s sporting events as well.
These lead us to a few bigger lessons:
We are all in this together
If we are all heading into pick up trying to get our kid out first and fastest, it’s only a matter of time before we are either consumed by rage and frustration because no one can ever always be the first and fastest or that something goes terribly wrong. But if we go into the pick up line with the goal of all kids and families getting in and out safely then that changes everything.
Working together means we sometimes sacrifice what is good for ourselves for the good of the group. This is true so often in life. But the secret is looking out for all the people actually makes the group work better and in the end that will actually help you. We are all irrevocably connected.
Give grace everyday
When that mom cuts us off or that dad yells at us in line, we give them grace. Assume they are still working on the easy rules and we all have to start somewhere. Don’t yell back. Assume their day was stressful. Their kid is sick. They just got laid off. They woke up to a flooded bathroom or a fire.
Sure, they could just be a jerk, but jerks are so rare. People accidentally acting like a jerk because life is hard much more common. They probably just need a hug and understanding which when you’re a stranger looks like walking away and moving on. Chances are they’ll feel terrible when they come out of their rage. And if not, well we’ve still done our part to make the world better and that’s all we can do.
Also, disclaimer, I am not at my best when I am running late or in a hurry or just in a frustrating situation. I may accidentally act like a jerk so sometimes we will need to give that grace to our very own selves. It happens.
Like really practice it. As a society our kindness muscles tend to be a bit flabby because we can’t exercise them if we are operating in aforementioned fight or flight. We need to be intentional here. There’s no lion so we have the time to slow down and think this one through.
Practicing means we chose a kind behavior and repeat it until it’s automatic. In the pick up line that mean we let someone in front of us in line. Or we leave the best parking place for someone else. Or we smile and wave to the other drivers.
In life we just take time to be aware of the needs of others around us and help to meet those needs when we can. Do this even if it makes you late or makes us crazy. No lion chasing us means that we have the time to be nice. Take a deep breath, we’ve got this.
Treat Others How You Want To Be Treated. Or we could just follow this golden rule. It really sums it all up so nicely.
In all of these lessons, we really just need to remember that each human wants the same things. In the pick up line we want to reunite with our kids and exit that parking lot before they are ready to graduate.We want to get to the next event, to the Starbucks line, back to work. We are trying to make it through.
And the kids are watching how we do this. They are taking notes. We can’t yell at the person in front of us and then expect them not to yell at their siblings. We can’t park in a No Parking Zone and then expect them to follow our rules. This is not how life works, they will do as we do. Which is one of the hardest parts of parenting…if only they would just do as we say it would be so much easier.
So take a deep breath, smile at the person who just yelled at you and move on down the line. Explain to your kids that the yeller or must be having a bad day and we should hope it gets better. Show your kids what grace and kindness in action look like in the pick up line and everywhere in life. There is never a reason not to. The world will be a better place for it.
That’s all this summer goal requires. It requires pretty much no planning or bucket list making or thought, other than keeping your eyes open for opportunity. This hour will find you.
I figured out the impact of this hour when we spent the last weekend at a water park while my son played lacrosse. Going back and forth from the game to the hotel water park all weekend left us feeling disjointed and exhausted. It was lots of fun, but I may not be young, so I was just tired at the end of it. I couldn’t wait to get home.
My kids, however, REALLY wanted just one more hour in the water park. They are young and can run all day and therefore weren’t ready to head home. Every bone in my body was screaming to head for the hills. I’d have to put on my bathing suit. We had to check out of our room, so if we stayed we’d have to change in the damp, icky changing area. My hair would be wet on the way home. The water park was so loud. Not one thing about the idea of staying sounded appealing to me.
But still, they wanted to stay. They looked at us with hopeful eyes, begging for the fun to continue. Pretty much every other family was headed home, but we made a decision that I didn’t know would change how I am looking at my whole summer and really how I’m looking at how my role as a parent.
We stayed the extra hour. And my friends I’m not exaggerating when I say it made all the difference.
We were in, so I dug deep and decided I was going to be fun mom for an hour. I could have been sit-in-a-chair-and-half heartedly-watching-their antics-mom for an hour, but I decided that would be a waste. If I wasn’t heading home, I was going to be yes mom for an hour. I was going to get my hair wet, and not complain. I was going to be a kid for an hour.
And it was So. Much. Fun.
I realized this hour was important about 10 minutes in, when I found myself racing up the steps of the kiddie water slide area, chasing after Sam, plotting how I could adjust my way of sliding to finally beat him in the water slide races we were having. I was ALL IN at that moment. I was a kid again, if only in my mind. I thought about how when I had said I would slide with him, his eyes had lit right up and his little arms had shot up in the air with a giant “YES!”. He wanted to have fun with me. In that moment I was not just fun mom, I was fun Amy.
And having fun with your kids allows you to see them in a whole new light.
I watched Sam use his God-given giant load of energy to run and run and run and embrace so much fun in life I think he may be a genius in this area.
I watched Kate fearlessly go on water slides that made me scream like a baby. She held my hand and was the one who was brave. She had no fear and a fierce independence and determination that made me feel lucky to be her friend for an hour.
I watched Thomas take Sam under his wing when it was his turn for slide races. I watched him teach Sam new water tricks and happily play in the kiddie area with reckless abandon, being kind and awesome to his brother at every turn.
I watched Ellie and Lily with their arms around each other, best friends for this sacred hour. I went down sides with each of them and floated through the lazy river as we all chatted without a care in the world.
I held Todd’s hand and went down a slide with him in a double tube, just like in our dating days. Our kids watching from behind rolling their eyes with huge grins on their faces, hopefully seeing that marriage is more than making lunches and carting them around. That we have actual fun with each other.
Spend the hour my friends.
This hour reminded me how awesome it is to be the fun mom. To just be human with your kids. How amazing it can be to say yes. Sure, I could have used that hour to start on the massive pile of laundry I brought home with me. And full disclosure, we pushed ourselves to the point that there was for sure more whining and complaining from my super tired people as we drove home. That hour could have saved us from having to stop and feed people a little treat on the way home because now dinner was too far away. My house would have been cleaner and my people fed on time and in bed earlier had we not spent the hour.
But, the laundry and the whining and the feeding of the people will always be there. That hour of fun was not only priceless, but fleeting, like a feather in the wind we had one moment to grab onto. And we did.
Your hour may not be water park fun, this may sound like sheer torture to you, I get this. The beauty is your hour can be anything. And seriously, it’s just an hour, not a day. So much more manageable . We can do anything for an hour.
Thinking back, I can remember my parents taking this same hour with us. My dad racing from roller coaster to roller coaster with my more adventurous siblings. My mom was a more fun shopping partner than any teenage buddy we had. They spent the time. They took the hour. And we have amazing family memories because of this.
Life tries to drum that hour out of us. It tries to make us believe that getting stuff done is the ultimate prize. I am all for folded laundry and an empty sink and kids who are asleep at bedtime. But don’t let life keep you from taking an hour here and there. Find what you love, share it with your kids, say yes when every bone in your old and weary body says no. Let your kids hear you scream like a kid going down a water slide. Get your hair wet. Eat ice cream for dinner. Play a family game of tag at the park as the sun goes down.
Show your kids you are more than a task master who cares too much about beds being made. Show them that you are not just the adult who wants them to entertain themselves at the water park while you sit in a hot tub (although I did that this weekend too and it was amazing).
Show them that family is fun, and that fun can actually come first. Show them the kid in you and this will bond you together in a whole new way.
Make it your goal this summer to take the hour. It will make all the difference in that moment. And it’s the moments that will change your family forever.
To my daughter in the event she finds herself in my shoes:
If someday you become a mother, I confess I have a secret hope you will have a girl. When you were born my mom was in the room and the very first words she said to me were, “Don’t you just love her?” Oh yes. That love hit me like a ton of bricks and she completely understood. I dream of you experiencing that first sweet baby love.
With all of the joys there will be challenges. I don’t wish them upon you, despite my yelling, “Just WAIT until you have a daughter someday, then you will understand!” when we are in the middle of a heated argument. Please know, I will hold no grudges. I will not be waiting to say, “I told you so.” You can call me.
Because I have been where you are today my friend. And today I am where you will someday be. I have learned a thing or two in both places. If you look closely at my me and my mom, you will see those lessons. Because we have come full circle. There is a reason I talk to her on the phone every day my sweet girl. And I believe someday you will be calling me too, you can always call me.
When your daughter rolls her eyes at you as you hold up what you think is a perfectly cute pair of jeans at the mall, you can call me. I’ll totally be on your side and chances are I will also think those jeans are cute. We will be back on the same team then my friend if you can believe it, we will both be equally uncool.
When your daughter ghosts you after arriving home from school and she only wants to hang in her room with the door closed thank you very much, you can call me. I will remind you of the days you disappeared down the stairs with barely a hello and would shout back a quick, “Whaaaat?!?!” when we would call your name to find out if you were even in the house with us.
When your daughter would rather talk to her friends about her problems (and I’m sorry to break this to you, most will occasionally be one of those problems), you can call me. We can reminisce about how you would spend hours on your phone with your friends, Facetiming and Snapchatting and other things that most likely are now archaic and crazy since your daughter is all about holograms and teleporting…or whatever. Those both sound like they belong in the future. The point is, I can remind you, you did the same thing to me and now look at us…we’re right back to talking about your problems. It will be OK.
When your daughter comes home and her heart is broken by her friends or God forbid a boy, you can call me. When you realize you are feeling every bit of the pain she is feeling plus a little bit extra because you can’t fix this for her, I will remind you that this pain will shape her in ways that will make her stronger and more compassionate. Just like it did for you. I’ll tell you it isn’t our job to keep the pain from our kids, but rather to help them see they are strong enough to make it through. And they don’t have to make it through alone.
When she doesn’t seem to remember you love her with all of your heart and that all you do and say comes from this love. When she doesn’t seem to know you look at her and see both a grown up beauty and a two-year-old sweet baby behind the wheel of a the car and that’s why you have broken out in a sweat. When she doesn’t seem to realize you are still a little baffled at how fast it went, and that it’s crazy she doesn’t want you to do her hair or pick out her clothes anymore. Call me. I’ll understand.
Call me, sweet girl, and I’ll remind you that we made it through. I look into our future and know this will be true. I look at my relationship with my mom and it has all happened just this way, you can see that now I am sure.
I know when you call me, I will feel a little thrill. I will be so happy that like so many mothers and daughters before we are friends. I will no longer be parenting you, just enjoying you. Our connection will no longer be embarrassing to you but something we both cherish. And really, if we think about it, it wasn’t really ever embarrassing at all. I will remind you deep down you felt special and loved when we worried about you. That even while rallying against the boundaries we set, you knew they were keeping you safe and from the fate of those kids who weren’t as lucky as you.
I will remind you we had glimpses of our future friendship, just like you and your daughter do, I’m sure. Those moments when she wants to lay by you on the couch, or talk a little longer in the car so you keep driving, or when she not so reluctantly denies friends to stay home for family game night. Or that glorious moment when she declares it’s more fun to go to Target with you because you’re her favorite shopping partner. Those are the sneak peeks of what is to come when she is grown.
I will remind you that through all of it, there was always love. That constant love that has flowed from each generation to the next is ours and always has been. Not even the teenage years can change that. No matter what, you can call me and I will be here. I am your mom forever, just as my mom is mine. And I will be just a phone call away. Always.
Spring cleaning has never really been my jam, but this year I can see more of my floor and my windows so it should be easier. I have been consistently lightening our load since January and we are starting to see the light.
Now you can join me!
The Uncluttered class that got me started is open again and there is a discount for you!!
The course is open only three times each year and the registration for the Spring 2017 Edition just opened today. The course begins on Monday, May 1st.
And the founder of the course Joshua Becker gave me permission to share a special code with Hiding in the Closet With Coffee Readers! Normally, the cost of the Uncluttered Course is $89. But if you use the code (FF25) at checkout, you can save 25% off the price. Don’t ask me what the final cost will be…that’s math my friends and it’s Friday morning of Spring Break.
Registration is open this week only, and here’s the webpage where you can find out more and sign-up: http://my.becomingminimalist.
The benefits here have been amazing, and even though we have made great project around this joint, I will be taking the course again. You can take it forever and ever for free after enrolling once, how great is that? My case of holding on to everything was a little severe. It’s great to have a plan for keeping the momentum going until we are as free as we want to be.
I also want to shout out to the awesome and supportive Facebook community. There were so many great tips and support for everyone as we waded through our precious and not so precious stuff.
Let us know if you sign up and we’ll meet you behind the scenes in the Uncluttered Facebook group. I’d love for us to support each other in living lighter!
The sermon at our wedding was beautiful, unforgettable and strangely ominous.
The wonderful priest who married us began with a story. He was assigned overseas and found he had to move suddenly, he would be on a plane in 24 hours. He had grown close with so many people and knew he likely wouldn’t see them again. At first, he resigned himself to spending the last of his time there packing and organizing to go.
Then, he thought better of it. He decided to forego packing and organizing because good-byes were more important. He chose the people and never regretted it. Because, he said, “What you have in the morning, you might not have in the evening.”
He wanted to impress on us not to take each other for granted. Not to take this life for granted. To remember it is all a gift.
I remember reflecting that I loved this message, but it made me uncomfortable too. Was it a sign? Did it mean I was going to lose someone I loved before I was ready? Was it God trying to tell me to buckle down, storms were coming? So I tried to tuck this message safely away where it couldn’t hurt me. We would be different, there was all the time in the world.
But of course the message is true and inescapable. Storms come for all of us. This young bride was focused on the happily ever after, and yet all those things I was afraid of that day will happen to me as they happen to all of us. It is part of being human, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. God doesn’t promise us that life will not hold sorrow, just that he will carry us through it when it comes.
You are never ready to lose what you have in the morning, those you love. There are never enough moments. There is never enough conversation or celebration or things to look forward to. There is never enough time, we will always want more. My grandma died in her 90’s, I still think wistfully it would have been amazing to celebrate her 100th birthday with her (her 90th was a pretty fun party). Because we greedily hold onto every moment.
I cannot think of a scenario where I would be ready to lose my husband, a child, a parent, a sister, a friend. And yet it will happen. There will be those days, those terrible days, where what I have in the morning I will not have in the evening.
This week a friend, who I have been lucky to share my parenting journey with through our daughters, died very suddenly. She was theirs in the morning and by evening she was gone. It was exactly as our priest said all those years before.
This woman was a dear mother, wife, daughter, and friend. There was no warning for her departure from us. It is one of those moments where you stop dead in your tracks. You can think of little else but how? And why?
She was a woman who was so grateful for her life. So grateful for her family and her kids and her experiences. She always turned our conversations to how lucky we were to be moms. How lucky we were to have these kids. She put her heart and soul into her mothering in a way that was a light for me. A light that helped me remember we need to live like what we have in the morning could be gone by evening. I will always be grateful for the lessons of her friendship.
It is moments like these that remind me I cannot hide from the fact that what we have in the morning we might not have in the evening. I now know that acknowledging this to be true won’t bring loss to my life. Instead, remembering this truth will help me live so my focus will be on living and loving my people well.
If I remember this, I will live today to cherish my people. To choose them over things. To be present and grateful and forgiving. To keep trying, even in the face of dirty dishes and lost shoes and an over-packed schedule. I can do my best to remember that each day is a gift.
If we remember this, we can be patient and grateful we are here to worry about what to cook these people for dinner. We can remember that our houses are filled with people which is why they’re also filled with mismatched socks. We can remember we are chronically exhausted because we are blessed with being able to drive our kids to practices and plays. We can find the joy and gratitude in this life and the people we get to be with. Those that live in our homes and those that do not. We can live like we know we are not guaranteed more than this very moment, without letting this thought paralyze us with fear.
The sermon at my wedding, the beauty of my friend’s life, the suddenness of her death, and so many other moments are lessons. They teach and remind us we need to love well while we are here and know that God will take care of the rest.
Because the best part is that there is a plan. Psalm 30:5 tells us while there may be loss in the evening, “joy will come in the morning”. God’s love is a promise that he will comfort those left behind and when we leave this temporary world joy awaits us. Those we lose are simply waiting for us in the morning that will come for us all someday. The morning of heaven will be all joy. This is the sustaining truth.
So we can live here knowing there is so much more to come. We can cherish those we love the best we can, knowing that when they leave us they don’t leave us forever. And we can have faith knowing our God is there with us. Always.
I used to be the mom who planned her days and nights around nursing schedules and naptimes, who stockpiled diapers and hid nuks in all corners of the house. I used to be the mom who put a crying baby in the car and drove endlessly around the neighborhood trying to induce sleep and quiet. I used to be the mom who made all her own baby food on Sunday afternoons while nap time settled a blanket of peace on the house.
Now I’m the mom worried about a new driver, the mom planning my weekend around play practices and basketball games and sleepovers and who lives in her van. I’m the mom who stockpiles her cabinets with grab-on-the-go lunches and food for the teenager that has decided to “go vegan”.
I used to be the mom who planned crafts for our snow days, read endless parenting books about what to do about tantrums and teething, who watched endless “shows” in our living room as kids came out from behind our family room curtains to show us their moves while dressed as princesses and pirates and ballerinas and knights. I was the mom who tried to relish it all as I also tried to make it that one more hour until bedtime.
Now I’m the mom having the hard talks about boys and Snapchat. I’m the mom that monitors screen time and homework and whose turn it is to sit in the front seat. I am the mom who watches my kids out in the world, working at actual jobs and acting in plays on real stages and trying to take in every second as I wonder why these tall people seem to be able to stay up later and later every night.
I used to be the mom they ran to hug the moment I walked in the door. The mom they would run through the yard and wave to as I drove away from the house, even if I was leaving for only 15 minutes. I used to be the mom who could comfort any hurt and soothe any problem. I was the mom who was their best friend, their ultimate playmate, the one they would choose over any other and who they couldn’t get close enough to.
Now I’m the mom who reminds them to stop for a hug before they leave and who embarrasses them in front of their friends. The one who drives them to the mall, but only to drop them off, and whose opinion might make their eyes roll as they chose the exact opposite of whatever it is I have just suggested. The one who still tries to comfort all the hurts, even those that are impossible for me to fix. I’m the mom who is their best friend only when there is no one around to see.
I used to be the mom who marveled over these small creatures, with their pudgy hands and wispy curls and both longed for and dreaded their first steps and adored how they pronounced gum as jum. Just the other day, I was the mom cleaning marker off of walls and managing 4 kids under 6 with the stomach flu thinking that they would always need me to take this intense and exhausting level of care of them.
But now I’m the mom thinking, “When on Earth did these people become as tall as me?”. I’m the mom who can’t find her favorite boots in the morning because they are on the feet of my daughter. I’m the mom thinking about college tuition and kids being left out by friends, and who is trying to figure out how to gently guide these independent people who still need me but in a whole different way
I used to be the mom who packed a giant diaper bag and would head off to playgroup where babies filled the floor as we fretted over how much they would eat or if they would ever stop needing to be rocked to sleep. I used to measure the road to bedtime in ounces consumed and books read and miles walked holding a squirming swaddled baby. I was convinced I would never sleep again.
Now I’m the mom who can’t always share my kids’ problems with my friends because teenagers need privacy. I’m the mom who drives kids to dances with dates and who buys lipstick at Target that isn’t for me and can just glimpse the future of graduations and college dorm move-ins and oh be still my heart, weddings. And I’m the mom who knows it’s not just hungry babies that keep you up at night. Who knows I’ll never sleep soundly again because pieces of my heart are not only out in the world but are now just out of my reach.
When I was the other mom, the one still at the beginning of this unwritten story, the stream of babies and littles and time seemed endless. The cuddles and songs and dance parties and episodes of Dora the Explorer and fights over the blue cereal bowl and the footie pajamas all seemed like they would last forever.
Because, you see, I used to be the mom who thought that I had all the time in the world. I used to half listen when they said, “Enjoy it, it all goes so fast” and I would rub my face into the downy hair on my baby’s head and think, “Not for me…it will be different for me.” The lives of these precious people stretched out before us….endless.
I am now the mom that knows they were right.
It has happened, now I’m that mom.
The one worrying about the future while the past feels both like it has flashed by and weirdly like it’s still within my reach if I can just squint the right way as I look back over my shoulder. Now I’m that mom that knows that our family years are coming to a close, no matter how I try and hold on and I’ve learned enjoying it doesn’t slow time down one bit.
It isn’t any different for me, it is just as it was for those that have gone before. I now am the one looking wistfully at people with new babies and saying, “Hold on, enjoy it, it will all go so fast” as if those words can save them. As if they won’t blink and find that they have turned into me.
But, there is a secret I want to tell those new moms.
I want to tell them, “Don’t be afraid, even as these babies grow so tall and beautiful and independent, you will be the same mom.”.
You will still be the mom that walks into their bedrooms while they sleep to check their breathing and fix their covers, even when their legs grow so long their feet almost hang off the bed. You will still be the mom that worries about what they eat and tries to bundle them up as they head outside. You will still be the mom that delights in each and every new experience, even if these take them farther and farther away from you. You will watch them go with the same feeling of pride tinged with sorrow you felt when they took those first steps from your arms. And it will be OK. You will love being this mom too.
Because even as the little people years pass away, you will still be the mom that loves them with all of your soul. So, you have no choice but to love every step of this journey. You will resist the urge to be constantly looking back and you will find what you love about being this mom. Your teenage babies will take your breath away in whole new ways as they tackle the world without you. And you will be the mom that lets them go, bravely, with your face pointed toward the future, standing a bit behind them just in case they need you. And they will need you. You are always and forever their mom, nothing, not even the current of time, can change that.