This past Friday started out like any other day. Well, actually, that’s not quite true. It started even earlier than usual.
Ever since the sun starting rising at the ungodly hour of 5 am (ok, 5:36 am to be exact), our oldest has been rising shortly after. I think 5:50 has been the latest in the past few weeks. But she knows her mamma loves her sleep, so she’ll usually make her way downstairs to either “read” her books or watch tv. My husband is usually up and getting ready for work, so they get to have some quiet morning time together, just the two of them. And that’s cool with me.
Our 3-year-old is pretty unpredictable. Whether he wakes up with his sister or sleeps longer, though, he’ll usually just come crawl in bed with me and go back to sleep. That is also cool with me. Like I said, I love sleep.
And the baby, well, currently he’s waking up around 6 to nurse but will almost always go right back to sleep for at least another hour after he eats. Also? Cool with me.
So essentially what I’m saying is that on any given day, even if I’m up early to nurse the baby or get the 3-year-old snug as a bug in a rug after he wanders into our room, I can usually stay in bed until about 7:30 or so, with only a brief interruption of sleep.
But not Friday. Friday was one of those perfect storm mornings where all three kids managed to wake up at the same time and had no inclination to go back to sleep. Any of them. And as I sat in bed feeding the baby while the other two talked about the whats and whys of diarrhea (don’t ask, I have no idea why this was even a topic of discussion that early in the morning) and then started arguing about what to watch on tv, I realized I was not going back to sleep. Although I did get the baby back to sleep, it was a lost cause with the older two.
Turned out the early wake-up was good, though, because I had a Mother’s Day Brunch to go to at our daughter’s preschool that morning, and since it had been awhile since I showered and made myself look presentable, I figured I’d better do something about that. As I was trying to steam myself awake in the shower while lamenting about the extra lack of sleep that morning, I started longing for the days of teenagedom when my kids’ lazy asses will likely be sleeping until noon. (Because that means that my lazy ass will be sleeping until noon!) “Those will be the days,” I remember thinking. (And yes, I know those years come with their own difficulties, but seriously, I should be able to sleep, right?!)
Then, later that morning I stood in my daughter’s classroom beaming with pride with all the other mothers as we watched our children sing us a song at our Mother’s Day brunch. I cannot for the life of me remember the words that they were singing, but in that moment I started tearing up and began experiencing something I can only describe as being equivalent to a near-death experience. You know, where something happens and your entire life flashes before you. Except it wasn’t my life. It was my daughter’s.
Seriously. It was almost as if everyone in the room disappeared and all I could see was my daughter. And bits and pieces of her life over the past 5 years just started flooding my memory. The day we found out we were pregnant with her. Her early birth and weeks living in the NICU. Her first milestones. Her first birthday party. Her transition from only child to older sister. Twice. Her first day of school. Her broken elbow. How her eyes, her smile, her laughter have managed to stay the same over the years.
Because in that moment, I was struck by the realization that my 3-lb preemie had grown into the smart, adorable, precocious 5-year-old standing before me in no more than the blink of an eye. How the hell did the last 5 years go by so quickly? All I wanted to do was freeze time. You know like in that show from years ago when the girl had an alien for a father whom she talked to via a glowing rock on her nightstand. And she could freeze time by touching her two pointer fingers together. What was that show called? (Pause while I consult Google…) Oh yes, “Out of This World.” So yeah, I wanted to do that. Freeze time. (Sidenote: If you’ve never seen “Out of This World,” you should check it out. It’s pretty tremendous.)
And then the guilt set in. For all the times, like earlier that morning, when I openly wished for time to speed up. For my kids to outgrow whatever phase they were in at the time. “I can’t wait until they’re older and sleep in.” “I can’t wait until they’re older so that they stop throwing these god-awful tantrums.” “I can’t wait until they’re all out of diapers so I don’t have to deal with wiping butts anymore.” “I can’t wait for the days when they’re older and I don’t have to watch them every flippin second of every single day.” I can’t wait. I can’t wait. I can’t wait. Wait, what?! *Insert screeching tire sounds here (or a record needle cutting across the record, your choice).*
As I stood watching these 16 preschoolers singing–these 16 preschoolers who all were babies you know like 10 seconds ago–I realized I had been spending so much time wishing for my kids’ childhoods to move along that I wasn’t always appreciating them for who they are now. Right this minute.
I could hardly breathe as the kids finished their song and I was pulled away from my thoughts by all of the clapping. I stifled my urge to sob right then and there, but when my daughter came over to give me the card that she made me, I nearly hugged the life out of her.
And right then I made myself a promise to stop wishing away time. At least so much. Now I’m pretty smart. I know everything is not going to be sparkles and rainbows and unicorns all the time just because I’ve made this promise to really focus on the now. Because I know the now still includes tantrums, and not listening, and goldfish crackers ground into the carpet, and toys all over the house, and glasses and glasses of milk spilled all over the place, and butts to wipe (oh so many butts to wipe!), and never any time for me…And I know there are still going to be times where I’ll think how nice things will be when the kids are older. And those kids of mine in the future will be awesome. I have no doubt.
But really, I need to remember that they’re pretty awesome right now, too! So, a big thank you to the 16 singing preschoolers who helped me realize this. 🙂
Happy Mother’s Day to all you mammas out there! May your day be filled with happiness and love whatever you find yourself doing.