I Made It?

“Wow, you’ve finally made it,” my neighbor whispered as I walked out of the elementary school doors. After a hectic summer, I was ready for the routine of another school year, and yet, I had found myself a bit apprehensive as I walked my youngest daughter to class earlier that morning.

I grasped her hand tightly as we approached her classroom. Dressed in her brand-new outfit and eager to begin this new adventure called first grade, my daughter giggled with excitement. Finally finding her name printed on a desk, she let go of my hand, hung up her bright pink backpack and turned to take her seat. I gave her one last hug, wished her well, and then rushed for the parking lot in case my threatening tears erupted.

“Finally!  Some well-deserved time for yourself,” my envious friend continued.  I nodded my head in agreement, but as I shut the car door behind me, the brutal reality hit me right between the eyes. A genuine, often tired, stay-at-home mother of four, I hesitated, waiting for the feeling of relief to pour over me, but it never came. Is this the day I’ve been waiting for all these years?

Just imagine… No more highchairs, cribs or naptime battles to deal with. No more nighttime feedings or crankiness blamed on teething. No more diapers! No more car seats, potty training, or meltdowns at the checkout stand. Can it really be true? No more playgroup, immunizations, or dragging a preschooler around with me everywhere I go?

No more freshly-picked dandelions carefully arranged in a Dixie cup? No more cuddling on the couch for cartoons? No more “Mommy’s home!” echoing down the hall as I walk in the door? No more wishing upon a star at bedtime? No more ‘mommy dates’ at McDonald’s? Can it really be true?

As I finally give away the well-worn stroller and the last box of recycled baby clothes, I somehow don’t feel like I’ve made it. I feel like I’m running out of time.

In the surreal blink of an eye, I have been transformed from a new mother, frenzied with worry about bedtime schedules and ear infections, to a mom now consumed with balancing four busy schedules and the brutal realities of junior prom, teenage drivers, and college tuition. I feel like I’ve finally entered the “real world” of parenting.

My crying baby of eighteen years ago is now taking college classes and ordering senior pictures, and my excited first-grader will too soon be graduating from high school. The inconvenience of the dirty diapers and messy bedrooms pale in comparison to this bittersweet process of letting go.

These babies of mine are growing up, and I am finally beginning to understand their message: “Love me…Teach me…Feed me…Nurture me…” but most of all, “Please enjoy me!”  This is the chapter I would add to all of those parenting books stacked on the library shelves.  Enjoy the crying spells, the crayon drawings on the wall, the never-ending homework, the giggles under the covers at night, the text-messaging and even that first car accident.

I know, I know, easier said than done. I do not claim to have all the answers; rather every day of this “parenthood journey” brings countless new questions. My days run long and my patience runs short, but I have learned one lesson during this parental learning curve: This miracle of childhood is fading much too quickly, and I already miss it.

So, every morning as I get up to face another day, I whisper to myself, “Whatever challenges, mishaps, and adventures you encounter today, remember to enjoy them, embrace them, and smile through them (with gritted teeth if necessary), because one thing is for sure: Today will quickly become yesterday, and it will never pass this way again.”

Question: No matter what phase you are in with your children, think of what it is you are going to miss when they are grown and gone.  What can you do to savor those childhood moments?

Challenge: Pick one thing about your child’s phase that you currently struggle with.  What is one thing you can do today that will help you overcome the struggling feelings and enjoy this phase of his/her growth and development more fully?

 

Photo submitted by Cindy McGee

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Comments

  1. Claire says

    Boy does this hit home! I have never been in an rush to say goodbye to these early years, for these very reasons. They go by way too fast! The joy greatly outweighs any drudgery.

  2. Julia Jacobsen says

    This is my life you are describing. We even just had the first car accident. Thanks for the advice to just ENJOY them. Because they are amazing, and we are blessed to be their mothers. Thank you!

  3. says

    This essay is so sweet and beautiful. Thank you! This line almost made me cry: “As I finally give away the well-worn stroller and the last box of recycled baby clothes, I somehow don’t feel like I’ve made it. I feel like I’m running out of time.”

    Thank you for reminding me (a mom who is very new to the journey) just how special these days with my baby are!

  4. Elaina says

    Oh I wish I would have read this before we went out today and my toddler peed in his carseat! haha! I definitely didn’t smile through my gritted teeth. Now I just want to tip toe into his room and kiss his little sweaty head while he naps! Thank you for reminding me what really matters!

  5. says

    I am amazed and saddened at how quickly it goes by. It makes me teary to read my own story because I feel like I just wrote it when in fact this post was written four years ago. YIKES! Another one is graduating this year, one just entered high school and the baby moved onto intermediate school. Julia I hope the child and car are ok? Thank goodness for good car insurance. We’ve used it a few times now with these teens.

  6. Jesse says

    I love the smell of my son sweat-damp from sleep, and the feel of him going limp: his insistent grip on my finger or shirt loosening as his arm relaxes into sleep.

    He is nearly four and naps have become less regular at our house. Soon they will be a thing of the past, so for the past few weeks, I have been cuddling up with him in my bed at naptime and allowing myself to enjoy this precious moment.

  7. C. Olsen says

    This is really beuatiful. I am putting this part up where I can see it daily and internalize it:
    Whatever challenges, mishaps, and adventures you encounter today, remember to enjoy them, embrace them, and smile through them (with gritted teeth if necessary), because one thing is for sure: Today will quickly become yesterday, and it will never pass this way again.

    Hope you’ll write more!

  8. says

    This is what I am going through right now. I have found the transition from being a mother of babies, to young children who are home all day, to older school children is more difficult than expected. I am having to reevaluate my mothering, my goals, my daily purpose, and I am constantly hit with the reality of how little time we really have to teach and train our children before they go off on their own. You put this in to words most beautifully.

  9. says

    Thank you so much for these lines. I’m still trying to find joy in night feedings, and smiling through teething phases. But these words reminded me that my boy will only go through this once and then it’s gone. Thank you for the reminder.

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