Dear Crissy

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When the kids were little

little kids

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.

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20 comments

  1. Very well said! I have a 3 year old daughter and 16 month old son. Every once in a while I’ll catch my self thinking, “I can’t wait till he/she can walk/talk” or “I can’t wait till they’re in school and I can actually clean during the day”….and then I think to myself how foolish and selfish that is, and I already miss the days when they were little. The 3 years, 4 months, and 1 day that I have been a Mommy have flown by, and I don’t want to waste one second wishing the time away, or feeling sorry for myself because I can’t do something trivial that I want to do. So what if I have dishes in the sink, and there’s toys and who knows what strewn about the living room at the end of the day? At least I can say that I have spent time with my kids and haven’t missed one moment of their day. Thank you for this reminder!!

  2. As an empty nester myself, I can attest to the fact that it is hard when the children are little, but, as you say, in the blink of an eye, the years pass by and they leave home. I can honestly say that I bawled like a baby when my son left for the service. One saving grace to this process though is that you usually become grandparents. What a joy in life that is and my feelings simply cannot be expressed in words. Treasure the moments either good or bad when your children are young, but remember that they bring many moments of joy to you even in their adult lives.

  3. i have a 15 mo and am pregnant with our second. i’ve witnessed my sister’s kids (6.5, 4.5 and 2.5) grow so fast and i’ve seen how fast this past 15 months have gone with our precious emma. i used to wish to fast forward til the kids are more independent and we can do more outings. but now i don’t wish for it. i wish for time to slow down each night as i rock emma. she’ll never be this size and age again. so even in the bad moments i remind myself that they’re temporary and will pass. but i don’t want them to pass too quickly – even if it means i’m gagging in the middle of a gross diaper change. 8-)

  4. They really do grow up fast. I would give anything NOT to go thru the teen years. If I see one more eye roll I’ll think I’ll scream. I still have one that looks at me with love (Anika age 3) but sadly her day will come too.

  5. My kids are grown and I find myself saying Time Flies A lot. Enjoy them while they’re young.

  6. oh, thank you so much for this short, sweet reminder. love, love, love this post.

  7. Thank you for the reminder. I’ve been gettingso frustrated with my toddler, like tonight when she spilled milk on the bed. I love her so much, but it’s a little crazy right now since I’ve gone back to work after my 12 week maternity leave for her sister. She whined non-stop most of Sunday. On the one hand, I wonder if she’s coming down with something. On the other, I just wish she’d stop. Either way, I hope she knows (and I try to tell her) that she means the world to me.

  8. Serena, I enjoy your honesty.

    I too love my kids enough to “crush” them with the weight! But the day in and day out of mothering is without a doubt exhausting! When it comes down to it there is no way we can enjoy “every moment” of motherhood! So…enjoy what you can and and don’t stress about it!

  9. I LOVE this part: Feel it. See it. Breathe it. Remember it.
    *I’m going to do just that today!

  10. My mom tells me ALL the time, “Enjoy this time – because when they’re older you’re going to miss it.” I’ve assured her countless times I’m not going to miss it – because so far, the toddler years with all 3 of my kids have been rough! I will definitely cherish how they were when they were small – but I think we’ll get along much better when they’re older and able to reason better! :D

  11. This is beautifully written and captures a Mother’s love perfectly!! I love when you said “I love them so big and so strong that I am surprised they are not crushed by the weight of that love.” It’s an amazing thing, that love.

  12. I needed a tissue, because that’s exactly how I feel right now with my3 year old and 3 month old. Sigh. I think of the same phrase from people when I’m holding that crying infant for what seems like forever, with aching arms. Hug :)

  13. I have a lot of those moments now that my kids are 10 & 11

  14. It’s a beautiful post.

  15. This is very, very true. As mother to a 23 year old and a 11 year old, I can say this: Live every moment with your kids to the fullest. One day you will look back and realize that it all flew by so fast.

  16. So true – the phrase “time flies” never meant anything to me until I had children. Now I really know what it means!

  17. I’m an empty nester, with a 21 year old son who moved out about 6 months ago. Just today, in fact, I told someone how hard it is on me, not knowing how – or even IF – I’m supposed to mother him nowadays, and not knowing exactly who I am anymore.

    I often say “when he was little”, and amazingly it seems like just yesterday. I can’t even begin to tell you how quickly the years will fly by. Once minute, Evan will be turning 5 and you’ll blink your eyes, and suddenly he’ll be graduating from high school. In the BLINK of an eye.

    I know it’s hard. Boy, do I know it. But I’d give anything to have those days back. Treasure them while you can, even the rough ones. One day, even the hardest days will be bittersweet memories.

  18. This is why, when my son throws a tantrum, or I feel a little bored, or people encourage me to work to “get away” from mommyhood for a bit, I think to myself “it’s passing so quickly”…I wouldn’t miss a single moment of not, not a tantrum, not a slow moment sitting and watching the same dvd again for the 12th time. I don’t want to miss a moment.

  19. “When you have a baby, the fast forward button on the remote of your life is superglued, duct taped, and nailed down. It is happening — fast. Feel it. See it. Breathe it. Remember it.”

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this, Crissy!

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