Before he was even born people told me this. I'm pretty sure every parent ever has said it. That's because it's true! Only 16 months into parenthood and I know it's true. Despite all the nighttime wake ups and days where I'm dying for adult interaction and contemplated ER visits for yet another time Asher landed on his head, it's still going by way too fast, and I already kind of mourn the time that has passed.
When my baby was a newborn I didn't know what to do with him. He nursed and pooped and cried, he always needed to be touched, and I looked forward to the days when he could walk around, feed himself, and interact with me on a higher level. People kept saying, "This will go by so fast." And I'd think, "Good! Because I'm exhausted and bored!" Of course, now a day where I snuggle up on the couch holding a newborn sounds heavenly after 12 hours of chasing the busiest toddler ever. It's one of those things you have to experience for yourself. You can know it's going to go by quickly, and you can know you'll eventually miss days that are overwhelming while you're in them, but until your heart knows it through experience, it's hard to truly understand.
When I see those commercials about the brevity of childhood, or hear a friend's gentle warning to savor the present lest I blink and they be gone, I have two reactions:
- I feel dread. Today I am my little boy's whole world, but one day I will not be. There's nothing I can do about that. If I want him to be a well adjusted man who can function within society, he needs to slowly let go of mommy and embrace everything he was meant to be. That's something I want so much for him, yet something that makes me feel sad. I know I'll still fill an important role in his life, and I know I'll move into a new season in my own life that will likely bring me a new kind of joy, but today, in this moment where I am his whole world, the thought of not being his whole world makes me sad.
- I feel guilty. I feel guilty for grumbling when he cries out for comfort at 2am, for my knee-jerk yell when he accidentally scratched my nose with his razor sharp baby fingernails, for locking myself in the bathroom for five minutes so I can regroup or cry or just have a moment to myself...Mom Guilt is a real thing! We want so badly to be perfect for our children because they deserve perfect, but we're going to fail because we are human, and we will probably feel guilty about it. When I hear that I'm supposed to savor every moment, I feel guilty because I don't savor every moment. I wish I could bask in the wonder that is my child constantly, but I definitely have days where nap time can't come soon enough.
There was a time early on in my parenting adventure that I wanted to snap at people who told me how quickly my child would grow up. "Don't you think I know that?!" I'd think to myself. "I'm doing my best here and you're making it worse!"
That, of course, is no solution. The reason people remind us how quickly childhood goes by is because they lived it, or are currently living it. They know how it feels. They wrestle with those same feelings of dread and guilt. They look back on their time with their children and truly miss all the seasons of it for different reasons. Heck, I've even said it to my friends! "You know this will be over before you know it," I said while offering perspective to someone who was having a rough time. While the words were tumbling out of my mouth I both hated them and clung to them.
If you're a fan of The Office like I am, you likely remember one of Andy Bernard's classic lines from the finale. "I wish there was a way to know you're in the 'good old days' while you're still in them." It was quoted a lot after the finale, both for it's humor and truth. It's easy to look back and see the good things behind us, just like it's easy to look at today and miss the good things because of the exhaustion and distractions.
In 10 years you likely won't remember the exhaustion and distractions of today. You'll remember the good stuff, and today will be "the good old days." Allow me to be the voice Andy longed for: you're in the "good old days" right now.
But let me add something else: you have "good old days" in your future, too.
One of my most peaceful memories as a kid is riding my bike down my country road on warm summer day. The sun was shining, summer vacation felt like it lasted forever, and I didn't have a care in the world. I look back on that day, on that feeling, as the good old days and long to feel that way again. I long for the simplicity of life, the lack of responsibilities, and the calm that comes from knowing I'm taken care of. Ah, the good old days.
I don't really want to go back there, though. Let me tell you why. That is a great memory, but to stay there would mean missing out on too much. That was a time before college, which is the place I blossomed in confidence. That confidence lead me to travel, opening my mind to the beauty in the world. That traveling lead me to my husband, who has shown me the power of incredible love. Our love for each other created our beautiful son, who has filled my life with more meaning and purpose than I knew was possible. To go back to the "good old days" would require forfeiting what I have now. No way would I do that. Not for all the "good old days" in the world.
To look back at how much goodness has come into my life since my childhood memory of "good old days" tells me that our lives aren't about good and bad moments, good old days and rotten days. We're building something here. We're on a journey. We're taking what was good, moving forward, and making it great.
Yes, one day I will miss this time in life. I'll have beautiful memories of these times and forget a lot of the difficult parts, and sometimes I'll wish to have them back. I don't need to feel dread about the future or feel guilty about today, though, because if history has taught us anything, it's just going to keep getting better. There will be struggles and heartaches, for sure, but there will also be learning, forgiveness, joy, and overcoming. Most importantly, there will be love.
My dear God, yes, there will be love like we can only imagine.