We watched our kids race after each other. They didn’t need us to entertain them, they were happy to play with each other. I said to my husband that this time in our life felt good. He agreed but stopped and looked at me with genuine concern and said, “I feel like the kids are growing up too fast.”
We sat down at the table in front. I wanted to make sure she could hear well and see the speakers. She sat next to me, I put my arms around her and brought her close to my body and sniffed her hair. I closed my eyes and thought about how I used to smell her head when she was a baby. It’s become a weird ritual I do when life is feeling too fast and I’m not sure how she got so big. Today was her First Communion class.
I was nervous sitting there. It was like Kindergarten Orientation all over again. It was a milestone for her, but instead of being a brave example, I felt weak and vulnerable. I was fragile and ready to crack into tears. Nostalgic for my baby girl yet struck by the reality of time and impressed by the growth of my child. I sipped my coffee each time I felt the urge to cry.
The pastor asked the children to leave the room for their next session and as he prepared for the parenting session, he walked to the front of the room and held up a large glass jar of marbles.
“What are these?” he asked the room full of parents.
“Core memories,” I thought to myself, evidence that clearly I’ve watched the movie, Inside Out too many times.
He bluntly told the room of parents that they were losing their marbles. Not in the way that is often expressed as being disorganized with thoughts. He clarified, “These marbles represent the weeks you have left with your child before they turn 18 and become adults.” The jovial tone in the room quickly turned to silence. I sipped my coffee as I tried not to cry. He continued, “There’s an app, too.” I knew about apps to countdown. I used the app for vacations, celebrations, and special dates but apparently, you could also use the apps to countdown how many weeks, days or down to the minute, the time you had left until your child turned 18.
I will never install that app.
I fully recognize this evaporation of time.
I am aware and incredibly frightened by the speed.
I was there.
I lived the long nights of feedings, the preschool battles of will, the start of school and worrying if she could handle all the new transitions.
A baby to a school-age child in a blink.
Holding a baby and smelling her sweet head seemed like yesterday but it was years ago.
I lived it, yet I struggle to account and assemble these pieces of time in such speed.
She asked me if I would figure out how many days old she is. Turns out there’s an app for that, too.
I silently beg my children to slow down.
They dismiss my requests as they twirl in the sand and run through the grass.
It’s getting hard to carry them.
They don’t fit in the grocery cart seat anymore.
I’ve packed away their baby clothes and there are no more diapers or baby toys left in our house.
They consistently surprise me with their expressions and inquisitive ways.
I’m taken aback, yet sad, by the skills they can do without me.
I stretch the blanket to cover them at night and am in awe at how big they’ve grown.
I watch them in their bedroom while they sleep.
I hope they have all the important characteristics and values I want for them.
It’s just all going so fast.
My kids are growing up too fast.
I pray that I’m doing all of this right.
Someone asked me recently to use one word to describe myself and I said, “Present.”
Truthfully, it hasn’t always been this way. I’ve let my life and motherhood get cloudy with pursuits that didn’t always stay true to my values. I forgive myself now for the lapse in judgment and believe it’s never too late to live the life you want. I just want to be a good mom to my children and be present for their life, not distracted by things that don’t really matter in the long run.
The speed of my children’s growth forced this awareness of presence on me. I know that right now, today, I am present for my children. I can’t stop them from growing but I can listen, watch and participate in their growth.
When I feel my kids are growing up too fast, I stop and ask myself, “Are you here? Are you present? Are you getting all of this?”
And it is painful seeing this growth and being present right there in those moments. It is a juxtaposition of your happiest and most vulnerable thoughts. Usually taking place in a public place like an auditorium or gym. It’s okay to cry at all of these milestones. Or sip your coffee. I’m there, present and soaking up these times with wild abandon because I know these moments will soon be gone.
I think that for so long I was so upset by my children growing up because I was insecure about the job I was doing in motherhood. Am I doing this right? Am I teaching them everything they need to know? But I have to stop and realize I am a good mom, I’m giving them what they need and they are slowly becoming young people who embody the characteristics and values we find important. Seeing my children grow up does make me nostalgic, but I know the power I have is not necessarily just in the past, but rather, the power I have is in my time and attention now. The power I have when I feel like my kids are growing up too fast is being present and participating in my child’s life, soaking up the simple, boring days and the monumental ones, too.
Photos: Sarah Hudson Photography and Nick Kesler.