“As another school year is upon us, my social media is on a loop of obligatory first day of school pictures. Children posing with their hair combed nicely, wearing outfits perfectly pressed with new backpacks hanging from their shoulders. Just about every parent’s post is accompanied by the phrase, ‘Where does the time go?’
It’s amazing how parents, including myself, all experience the days passing by but when we make an entire trip around the sun, we are so shocked by all the things that have changed in our children. Some parents comment on how tall their child has gotten. Other parents remark on how much more confident their child holds themselves. A few observe how different their son looks with his front teeth missing. Or how their daughter’s baby pudge is finally gone and just a beautiful mature child is left in wake of all her growing.
One thing I have learned in the last decade since becoming a parent is how time moves differently when you are raising a family. Experience and the value of time are two different entities. In life, there is a definitive before and after children, with a giant line separating the two. Once you are a parent, busy takes on new meaning, love takes on new meaning, frustration takes on new meaning. Why wouldn’t time?
Among all the emotions and daily living, time finds a way of slipping away. Minutes get tucked into the corners of the mattress where you put your child to bed. Moments are buried just under the sand where your toes dug into just days before. Time is lost in the crevices of the seats of your SUV under the soccer cleats and next to the half full Poland Spring bottle of water. Time is squeezed into your son’s backpack next to his homework folder. It’s overflowing like the laundry in the blue laundry basket in the hallway. It is wedged between exhaustion (being up 4 times with your teething toddler) and obligation (your child’s dentist appointment that is running 40 minutes behind… again.) It’s tucked into the reusable shopping bags with your wallet and keys and old shopping receipts, clumsily hanging over the side of the grocery cart. It’s in the sunrise you see through the kitchen window washing sippy cups and making lunches before the rest of the house is awake.
Some of your time you wished away on the days your toddler didn’t nap long enough. Or on the days the clock moved in slow motion as you broke up the 40th fight between siblings. Time is something that required a close eye some days calculating exactly when you had to leave to get everyone to their designated sports games and dance classes. Time is left in the silent moments of the night when the entire house is sleeping except you. Tiny slices of time tucked in the creases of the floorboards. Time, a mist around you as you visit each of your child’s bedroom. Sitting on the edge of their beds, swiping the hair from their foreheads and kissing their soft cheeks; still fresh with the smell of lingering soap from their evening shower.
The days are all there. If you stop and add up the hours and minutes and seconds, they will all be accounted for. It won’t feel right, but it will be. As time passes you will begin to understand more and more the cliche comments of parents with grown children, ‘enjoy every minute because it goes by so fast.’ Be kind to yourself when that doesn’t feel possible. Remember that some days will just be too hard to enjoy and too hard to appreciate all that is right. Even when days have moments of serenity and happiness it will also undoubtedly have its challenges.
I have learned that as a parent, time is both everywhere and nowhere. It’s fleeting and amazing and moody and volatile and happy and angry. It is a roller coaster. Just as you are finally getting comfortable in your seat as you peak at the top of the first incline, the fast release to the bottom happens taking your breath away and opening your eyes to a new, exciting and scary experience before you actually even realize the ride you have embarked on. Then before you know it the ride will stop and you will be left with just the memories.
I am only halfway to 18 with my oldest child and already I feel like it won’t be enough time to be on this crazy ride…not with how fast it has moved! I realize 18 isn’t a magical number and my kids won’t actually up and leave on their 18th birthday. I also realize they won’t ever stop being my kids, but I know they aren’t going to want to spend all those years with me. In fact, they will spend a good chunk of that time annoyed and angry with me. Upset with my rules and decisions and perhaps even believing they hate me. I also believe with each difficult parenting decision and growing pain they will be growing stronger because of me.
Time is experienced differently as a parent. Our children force us to learn to live differently; to cherish the busy and embrace the silent times. To slow down, even though raising them makes time speed up. It’s a crazy ride. It’s the journey of a lifetime… it’s something you will hold on to so tight it will just about disappear…”
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