They tell you that time flies and to enjoy it all you can, and yet in the midst of sleep deprivation, 3 a.m. feedings, and endless diapers, it feels like it will last forever. You wonder how time can possibly fly when one night drags on so very long.
Then, one morning you wake up to a running toddler who jumps in your bed and you wonder when she got so big. You chase her around all day until you’re utterly exhausted, longing for the rest that night should bring, but it still doesn’t come. Unless you’ve hit a jackpot, toddlers still often interrupt your sleep. Still though, when she throws those little arms around your neck, you wouldn’t trade it for all the rest in the world. You have a sense now that what they say is true. The days are long, but the years are short.
You blink, and he’s off to kindergarten. It hits you with a sickening thud that the baby days are forever gone and time seems to speed up now. You try to keep up. You do your best to soak it in, but you can’t get a good grasp for long enough. He’s growing too quickly now, constantly changing, slipping right through your fingers. You can’t remember the last time you carried him, when he last rode on your back as you played horsey in the living room, or the last time he climbed in your bed in the middle of the night, but you wish you remembered. You wish you had a picture of each of those moments to carry with you always.
Summers come and go. You know they are numbered, so you pack in as many memories as you can while the days are slower and the daylight lingers. You take lots of pictures on that family vacation, too many according to your kid, but you just have to capture that fleeting moment in time. Now it’s back to school, and life once again becomes a flurry of backpacks, science projects, and soccer practice and suddenly they’re finishing another grade. Another milestone is reached. Another closetful outgrown.
Before you know it, you’re dropping him off at middle school. This boy that you held in the crook of your elbow stands nearly eye to eye with you now. As he walks away from your car you think he looks too big to be yours. You whisper, please let everyone be good to him. You know how hard middle school can be. And it is. But together, you find your way.
A few more Christmases come and go. Wrapping paper swallows the floor and you relish the laughter that fills your home. You snap more photos and resolve to make albums of every year. You ask someone “take one of me with her” because you read an article about needing to be in the photos too.
The first day of high school brings jitters for everyone, and you realize you’re in the homestretch now. You think it’s weird how you can still see her toddler face when you’re looking right at her at 14. Before you can catch your breath, there are first dates and curfews, cars and proms. Is she ready? Have I done enough? Oh but you are so, so proud of who she’s become, and you are filled with gratitude that she is your baby, no matter how old she gets. She is your baby.
His room is filled with boxes as he packs for college. You know he has to fly, but your nest looks so very bare. Suddenly he’s gone, and you stand there in that room as tears escape your eyes. How did it last so long but go by so quickly? You finally print all those photos and catalog your joy by date. Your home is neat and quiet. Until the grandkids come over.
This is parenthood; the unbelievably long and unreasonably short span of loving and letting go. It’s the hardest and most wonderful thing you’ve done and you are forever changed by it all. Your child’s fingerprints will one day no longer be on your mirrors, but they’ll always be on your heart. Yes, time flies. Enjoy it all you can. Slow down. Catch a breath. Let the little things go. Hold him in your lap. Stay and play a little longer. Connect. Make memories. Great ones. Memories worth holding onto when the little hand you’re holding onto now is gone.
*This article was originally published at Creative Child.