I am the mother of four children under the age of ten, and if I had a dollar for every time someone told me to cherish these moments because the time goes by quickly, I could fund the research to build a time machine so I could actually hold onto these days forever.
This is silly, of course, because I don’t really want to hold on to them forever. I want my children to grow and learn and have new experiences. I’ve always called this the “Dirty Trick” of parenting. Each stage brings incredible excitement and discovery, but at the same time, you realize that the last stage has passed and is gone forever. If the new wasn’t so exciting, leaving the old behind would be nothing short of devastating.
When I get the inevitable “cherish these days” message, I smile and nod and sometimes have to force myself not to roll my eyes because it seems like such a cliché anymore. You probably even rolled your eyes when you read the title of this post. But every once in a while, the moments really do grab me, and I want to hang on to them, at least in my memory.
Like our five-year-old daughter, who has the biggest, most giving heart. She gave her precious “pink night-night,” a bunny-blanket, to her baby cousin for her birthday. A couple weeks ago, she spent the afternoon drawing an individual picture for every single person in her kindergarten class, and after we baked Christmas cookies this weekend, she insisted on taking some to our pastor and her teacher. She gives with abandon, and never with regard to the fact that once she gives, she has less. It’s as if she understands, at five, that when you give, you actually have more…a lesson I need to remember, myself.
Or like our seven-year-old daughter, who speaks less than she sings. Everything is in song. I’ve heard her play out entire story lines with plastic figurines in which everything is sung in impromptu libretto. And she doesn’t know how to walk. When she needs to go somewhere, she skips, or hops, or gallops, or dances. She spends her life expressing herself, and shame on me if I ever try to quash that.
Or like our nine-year-old daughter. I was at her school today meeting with some teachers for work, and as I was leaving, she was coming out of her classroom to get on the bus. Her face lit up when she saw me. She grabbed my hand and held it all the way down the hall, and when we parted, she gave me a hug and a kiss, in plain sight of her friends and classmates. As she moves into the thick of her tween years, I know those days are numbered, but her affection, and her not-so-little hand in mine this afternoon, made my heart sing.
And our son? He’s two, and he cracks himself up. He has the brightest, most beaming smile, and I dare you not to laugh when he starts giggling. He allows the smallest things to bring him unadulterated joy, and when he wants me to pick him up, he says, “Mommy, hold you.” I need to remember that when I gather my baby into my arms, maybe he’s right. Maybe he IS the one holding me.
They’re not perfect children. There are times when they behave poorly, or don’t do what they’re told, and there are times when they annoy me to high heaven. I don’t have to cherish those moments. But these days WILL pass. These imperfect children are perfectly ours, and they have so much to teach us, in the good moments and the difficult, even when I am gritting my teeth and swallowing back a yell, and not always successfully at that. And with each new stage, they will continue to teach us, if we let them.
I’m trying to learn, and hold on, and let go, all at the same time.