"Like sands through the hourglass... so are the Days of Our Lives."
Ha ha I totally just quoted a soap opera, even though I don't think I've watched more than two soap opera episodes in my whole life. But, it's what I'm thinking about.
Because first, there was this article that half a dozen of my friends posted on Facebook. And then I've been thinking about this blog post, which makes me bawl every time I read it. And then, there are the ladies. The grocery store ladies, and the church ladies, and the doctor's office elevator ladies, who smile whistfully, and say "enjoy every minute, it goes by so fast."
And you know what? I am not annoyed by them. I always tell them, no matter what kind of day I am having, thank you. Because it is probably on those crazy, harrowing, overwhelming days that I need to hear them say it. I still cry when I think about Sophia's first day of kindergarten. Because all those first five years, I thought I had all the time in the world to think about her going to school, and then WHAM! there it was - it came so much faster than I expected. I wasn't ready, but it came anyway. It didn't feel like five years, but it was. And now, when I think about her being in high school, and I think it's so far away. But I know. I know, it's just going to suddenly be here, whether I'm ready or not.
And every now and then I let myself think about the days that my house will be quiet. The days that little handprints and crayon marks no longer mar my walls. Days that my bathroom floor isn't flooded every night at 7 p.m., days that I do not step on Legos, days that cleaning up after a spaghetti dinner doesn't involve a whole roll of paper towels. And I cry. I know that when those days come, the echos of my children running through the house will be a deafening silence.
The HuffPo article likens raising children to climbing Mount Everest. And yes, some day I will look proudly at my children and think "I made it to the top of that mountain." But I do not want to think of the journey as a painful, uphill climb. Because I will also think about their little hands reaching up to be held, and their sweet baby lips sucking the air while they sleep, the weight of their bodies on my chest when they are sick, and their little eyes looking at me - burrowing into my soul, saying don't forget this moment. I want to know that I have sucked the marrow out of those moments, that I stopped to breathe in every single second, so that when they are gone, I know I didn't miss anything.
It can be so easy to let ourselves count down the hours until bedtime, to laugh about how nice it will be to not have ketchup on our shirts, and to sit around talking about how three year olds are so whiny and newborns don't sleep enough and toddlers wear us out. Those are the thoughts that crop up when we are in the midst of motherhood. Those are the easy conversations to lapse into when we are with other mothers. But those are not the thoughts I want validated. Rather, I cherish the reminders that I'm missing the point. I need to be brought back to the sacredness of these moments. Yes, even the hard ones. If I find myself having too many days that I am overwhelmed and annoyed and not enjoying every moment with my children, it is usually a clue that I need to change something - about the way I parent, about the way I take care of myself, or about something simple like how we enforce certain rules in our house.
I cannot say that I have enjoyed every single second of being with my children. But I can tell you that I have regretted every second that I didn't enjoy them. And so, even when I hear that cry in the middle of the night and I think I might actually die from being so tired, or when I've told my six year old to pick up her sweater for the fifteenth time, I remind myself that these days are numbered. Tonight might be the last night that the baby wakes up to eat in the middle of the night, and oh my gosh, I can't stop the tears from flowing when I think - those sweet moments in the dark of night, when all the distractions of the world are gone, and there is nothing but the sweet smell of my baby's head and his little hand on my breast, they are gone. I have a lot of life left to live, and many things to look forward to, but those days, they are past.
It's loving our children through their worst behavior, learning to laugh when everything goes wrong, feeling daily gratitude for being given these precious children to raise up, that's what makes parenthood so sacred.
So, thank you grocery store ladies, for telling me to cherish even the exhaustion and exasperation. Thank you, church ladies, for reminding me that, yes, my children are beautiful and well-behaved. Thank you, doctor's office elevator ladies, for transporting me to the future for just a glipse, because now I remember what I don't want to regret.