“They’ll be gone before you know it. The fingerprints on the wall appear higher and higher. Then suddenly they disappear.”
– Dorothy Evslin
I remember first reading this quote years ago when our twins were newborns and I was overwhelmed with five preschoolers. It seemed like the fingerprints and messes and constant demands on my attention from several sources simultaneously would be with me forever.
But now my last babies, my twin boys, are four.
I’m done with diapers and spit up and getting up in the night with babies. The strollers and high chairs and baby swings are given away. The fingerprints are moving higher on the walls (and some of my kids are actually learning to wash their hands so there’s not so much grime on everything!). My kids really are growing up!
I’m so happy to be done with the baby paraphernalia all over the house. I’m so grateful to be able to run out the door without having to grab diapers and wipes and bottles – I’ve been diaper bag free for a couple years now! I love being able to talk to and reason with all my kids. I love seeing them read and bike and dance and do so many fun and exciting things. It’s so great to be able to take them all on a bike ride or bowling or to a museum or on a road trip and have it actually be a fun experience for everyone including the parents.
But I’m sad too.
No more wonder of feeling a baby move inside me for the first time. No more amazing excitement of childbirth. No more snuggling a sleeping baby and smelling that sweet newborn smell. No more seeing those first smiles. No more watching those first wobbly steps. No more hearing that first “mama.” No more watching a big brother or sister marvel over a new baby brother or sister. Oh, I miss my babies!
One era is gone and it was a great one – one I probably didn’t appreciate enough at the time. It can be hard to really enjoy the “now” when you’re getting slammed by so many hard things all the time. It can be easier to see the beauty in things that are past than in things that are present.
As I look back, I realize the need to appreciate the beauty in the present more. I need to cherish the chances to snuggle my kids, to see their excitement when I come help in their classrooms, to hear them beg for me to read them the next chapter in our book at bedtime, or to have them clamor to tell me about something that happened at school that day. These are the beautiful things that are part of my normal days now – things that will be bright warm memories some day as those fingerprints move up the walls. I need to enjoy and appreciate the “now” a lot more and realize the beauty of this stage with my children, stopping to drink in the love and the sweetness that’s always there, if I look for it.
I hope that I’ll never feel the way Anna Quindlen felt in looking back: “ The biggest mistake I made [as a mother] is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough.”
Kids really do grow up. Hard things really do get better – and then new hard things come along. Beauty really can be found every day.
Enjoy the now! Capture it in pictures and writing but most importantly, enjoy it and capture it in your heart so that the beauty of being a mother to your children at every stage of their development (and yours) can stay with you always.
*** For more specific ideas from Saren on appreciating the “now” with our children, check out this post: Five Tips for Loving Every Age and Stage (includes a video).
QUESTION: What do you do to enjoy the current stages and ages of your children?
CHALLENGE: Snuggle those kids, really listen to what they want to say to you, cherish the moments. The laundry and that text you need to send can wait..
Thank you. What a true and well-written article.
Way to make me cry Saren! My Lance is just a few months behind your boys and now looks so big as I compare him to his new baby sister, Cecilly. I can’t stand the thought of not having fingerprints on the walls and feel lucky that I got an extension with her long awaited, but somewhat traumatic arrival. Each stage is so fun. At 14, Asher is turning into such a charming young man and at 11, Arielle is my best friend and total joy as we share all of our passions together in a “she’s my clone” sort of way.
I needed to read this today, Saren. Thanks!! I especially liked “Hard things really do get better – and then new hard things come along.” That sounds like the story of my life. The past usually seems easier (but maybe that is because we forget most of the bad things). Thanks for reminding me to enjoy today…