My heart beats faster, my breathing doesn’t seem to quite come deep enough. There is a heaviness in my chest – like someone is stepping on me – I think it’s panic. Time is slipping through my fingers faster than I can take hold, and I don’t want to miss out. Are we doing this parenting thing okay? Will we look back and wish we had been different somehow?
The panicked feeling started last night after Dean, Audra and I watched a movie. When it ended, Audra kissed us and went to bed. There was no good-night hug from Ethan, who was staying the night at a friends house (as often seems to be the case on weekends nows) – and it didn’t cross my mind to send him a good-night text.
An hour later, the panicked feeling slowly crept its way into my heart. When was the last time I tucked my kids into bed? When did it become the norm that they kiss me goodnight in the living room and then drift off to sleep without me spending time in their rooms? How could I have let that treasured time slip away from our daily lives simply because I was curled up and cozy in the other room? As I head to bed, I peak in on Audra as she sleeps. Part of me wants to curl up next to her and take back that time. A do-over. But of course I can’t.
Thoughts and images begin to flash through my mind. A glimpse of Audra as she leaned over to kiss Dean goodnight, looking more and more like a young woman than a young child. The thought of the bag of new clothes and shoes we bought for Ethan tonight – all sized by the logic that if they are too big for me, they will probably fit him. A memory of Ethan chuckling as we hugged as he readjusted his arms to come over top of mine. These little moments are a daily reminder that he will soon be bending down to hug me. Conversations flit through my mind – of boys and girls, fitting in, growing up and all of the exciting and awkward times on the horizon.
My kids are growing up too fast.
My minds swirls, drawing me down further – I panic that we don’t have many years left of family vacations, or that they will almost ready to leave home by the time we build our next home. I panic that they aren’t grasping these last fleeting years of childhood fully – that they are not getting enough outdoor time, and spend too much time on iPads and texting friends. I panic. Will they remember their childhood with as much joy as I do mine? Would they want to change things? Can we do things better?
In this downward spiral, I feel a deep sadness while I miss more simple times. I miss pudgy little hands in mine, the feel of their warm, sleepy bodies melting onto mine. I miss seeing the joy they found in simple things like rocks and sticks and bugs, jumping in mud puddles, making art and playing with playdough. I mourn, yet again, how fast life is passing by.
When I look in the mirror, I’m quite okay with the changes I see as I age. But when I look at my kids, I realize that their rate of change is an entirely different measuring stick. Where is the time going?!
With a deep breath, and conscious effort, I bring myself back to reality. I realize that I have let my mind go off on a crazy tangent. I feel these things, and yet, I also know that I am delusional. I am letting my mind filter memories with only one lens. I am only remembering the poignant, sweet memories – but leaving out the fatigue of being constantly wanted and needed. I am focusing on what has been lost – or parts of life that we have naturally grown out of – but not seeing all of what we are gaining.
I admit that I am afraid of some of the uncharted areas of life we are entering into. I know what it’s like to be a kid – but I’m not one right now, in today’s day and age. I remember my teen years as being full of awkwardness, fuelled by a desperate need to fit in, while simultaneously full of great memories, solid friendships, and the exhilarating and unparalleled excitement of growing up. I think of how hard those years must have been for my parents – and I sincerely hope that we parent through these coming years and still feel – most days- like we are thriving.
Quite unrealistically, I wish that we could keep the good and avoid the bad. But maybe the best we can do is to get through the years being as present as we can, as often as we can manage. I need to accept that there will be days that we won’t have this parenting thing down so well. There will be days that we will need to escape, go on autopilot, or just hope that tomorrow is a better day.
When I look at our life with a more balanced lens, I can admit that life now comes with more freedom, deeper conversations, and more adult experiences together. We can watch mature movies that teach life lessons, choose family outings that we all enjoy equally, share the home responsibilities amongst four people rather than two, and have fun doing things like skiing together, going to the beach and sitting down for family dinners most nights.
The truth is that I don’t want to go back in time (although quick visits would be nice). And I don’t want to rush through my days now, either. I just want to be able to look back on these times – and know that I didn’t miss out, and to have a deep knowingness that we truly did the best we could.
On days that my thoughts run away on me – like today – I need to remind myself that even when we are less-than-exemplary parents and imperfect role models – our kids know that they are loved beyond measure, accepted without question, and supported unconditionally to let their own inner light shine – whatever that may be.
I remind myself that life comes with many ups and downs, challenges and joys. Time is going to pass, regardless of how hard I wish for it to slow down. I am reminded – yet again – that perhaps the hardest job as a mom is that of constantly letting go and trusting in life, our kids, and ourselves.
And deep breaths. Many, many deep breaths.