Think of all the times you’ve heard someone start a story with the words, “When the kids were little …”
Those words are a record skipping in my head. I’ve heard them from my grandmother, from my mother, and from most parents I’ve talked to at any length. There are so many memorable moments attached to that period of time, when our kids are little.
Last night, I made no less than 300 trips around our dining table with a colicky infant in my arms. She likes to be held facing forward, so, with my forearm across a full, warm belly, and a hand cupping her puffy, diapered butt, I shushed and swayed and bounced my way around that thick wooden table, silently willing her to stop (stop, stop, please stop)n while fighting the building urge to melt into the hardwood and cry right along with her.
My circles around the table finally calmed her crying, which gave my little boy the perfect opening to ask me for a glass of water (he was undoubtedly relieved that he no longer had to compete with the baby’s wailing), and a snack, and a crayon, and as the requests flowed from his beautiful mouth I realized I had mastered the skill of tuning him out.
Yesterday was right up there in the top 5 most stressful days that I’ve experienced as a parent, which makes me cringe because my woes are embarrassingly insignificant in the grand scheme of life. The grand scheme of life, doesn’t that sound ridiculous when you think about it?
In fact, complaining about my healthy, happy children in any capacity makes me cringe. Nevertheless, on that particular day, I felt like someone was slowly letting the air out of a balloon two inches away from my ear, and by the time my husband came home from work, I was defeated and deflated.
And I keep thinking about this phrase, “When the kids were little.” It is a persistent whisper, and I see myself twenty years from now, with a look of longing on my face, beginning a story of my own with, “When the kids were little …”
I live a life filled with joy, tears, love, frustration and laughter; I can never be sure what tomorrow will bring. Motherhood is unpredictable, but one thing never changes. I love my kids. I love them so big and so strong that I am surprised they are not crushed by the weight of that love. Even when I want to run out of my house screaming—and I think I have ran out of my house screaming—I still love them.
Now, I don’t think I’m owed an award for doing what a parent is supposed to do, but, I’m also not going to pretend that I don’t have days when I want to disappear, or that there aren’t moments when I think maybe some important parts of me disappeared when two pink lines manifested before my eyes.
Still, I know that these days will occupy a huge part of my memories, forever. I know I’ll look back on my life and the memories of this time will be nothing more than a fleeting specter. I can already feel that ache, and as I write this, my babies are asleep in the adjacent room.
I had to stop thinking and stop writing for a moment to check in on them. Peeking in, I saw thick lashes and the gentle rise and fall of chests, elastic skin, and thin branches tangled in blankets—the sum of their parts, visible and invisible, so beautiful and fragile that my breath stops—every time.
When you become a mother, the fast forward button on the remote that controls your life is superglued, duct taped, and nailed down. It is happening—every moment, every cute, lispy word, every delight, every breakdown, every little thing, and it will probably transform into a broken collection of memories before you even have the chance to touch it.
Feel it. See it. Breathe it. Remember it.