I took a snapshot of my kids this morning. I intend to keep it close by, so it can serve as a benchmark. We have reached a turning point in our family. We have finally arrived at the point in life that most parents of small kids look to with anticipation for what feels like forever.
Diapers have all been thrown away. Bottoms are being independently wiped. Mouths are being fed by utensils independently held the correct way (Well, mostly).
As parents, we spend so many years training our children up to get to this point. Every time my kid runs her own bathwater, ties his own shoes, or fixes his own bowl of cereal, I almost want to run around the house with my hands in the air shouting “Freeeedom” like Mel Gibson did in Braveheart.
We’re here. We have arrived. We did it. We are hands-free as we walk through grocery stores. We can actually pay attention and come away with something from Sunday church services.
We can have meaningful discussions while making eye contact with other adults, without that familiar “why-is-my-child-doing-that?” lump forming in the back of our throats.
Making small talk while shooting silent dagger eyes at my Tasmanian devil from across the room had become a way of life for me. There was actually one point where I thought I should just rock a T-shirt that said, “What were we talking about again?” I should note that keeping track of a kid at a birthday party while finishing a complete thought takes sheer talent, by the way! But I digress.
My point is that it is great to be here. It feels good to have the freedoms afforded to us again that we took for granted prior to parenthood. It’s nice to get a taste of “normalcy” again. It’s a feeling of fulfillment, pride, and accomplishment. We can breathe. Dare I say we can maybe even relax at times? But if it’s so great, then what’s this sadness thing doing trying to creep up in here and ruin the celebration?
When I was little, as soon as a toddler cousin of mine would start to walk, my grandmother would jokingly say to his mom: “Push him down. Do not let him start walking.”
I now realize what she meant by that.
The years we as parents spent “in the trenches” cleaning mysterious substances off floors and walls, changing bedsheets countless times in the night, waking up around the clock to feed… exhausted. Utterly physically and mentally exhausted. Those years, while we were in them, seemed like they were crawling by. We spent our time in what seemed like a fog, as one day slowly turned over to the next. I remember looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, and, at times, wondering if there even was one. Would I ever sleep through the night again? Would I ever be able to sit down for the duration of an entire meal again? Would I ever be able to finish a complete sentence? Or even a thought? I think I’d actually abandoned those possibilities. But now, all of the sudden, that time has come. And just as sure as it arrived, it is already starting to fly on by.
Suddenly, I am finding myself becoming one of those moms who’s shoving back the tears at the milestones and trying to play it cool, as opposed to celebrating the passage of time like I have up until this point.
The sand continues to drop to the bottom of the hourglass at rapid speed, as I try in vain to hold it in place for a little longer. The harder I try to hold it in place though, the quicker it seems to be slipping through my fingers.
I’ve always said that seeing my kids grow up makes me nothing but happy. However, as my oldest takes off to middle school and my “baby” has just sprinted through Kinder, it’s truly a bittersweet and divided emotion. What is it about parenthood that can make us feel two completely opposing emotions at the very same time!?
We may never know.