Disclaimer: The following post is fiction… Mostly. Our kids are three and one. I wrote this to remind myself that even though there are challenging moments with my little ones, time is tricky and goes more quickly than I ever thought possible. I plan to reread this on those days I find myself wishing it away.
Today, my toddler threw a car tantrum so epic that it took everything in my power to remain focused on the road. She woke up the baby, who’d been napping a mere fifteen minutes, eliciting a cacophony of cries and screams from the back seat. I wish there was a sound-proof partition in my car. I wish time would just go faster.
I look in the rear view mirror and two middle schoolers are sitting where my babies once did. They look so grown up, yet their features are familiar. The little round faces I’d grown so accustomed to have been replaced by thinner ones with higher foreheads and sharper cheekbones. Leftover peanut butter and strawberry juice are no longer lingering in the corners of their mouths. I drop them off at soccer practice, and remember how we used to laugh as they toddled after the long-deflated colorful play-ball in our backyard. I wonder aloud if it’s still buried in the garage somewhere (and ask myself why food never failed to appear on their baby faces even though I always wiped them after lunch.) How did they get so big so fast?
We put off nighttime potty training with our oldest because she’s always been a poor sleeper, but we finally started recently. Last night, I asked her to please be quiet so we didn’t wake up her baby sister. She continued to speak in toddler-whisper – the language of the loud – and the baby began to cry. I wish I was on a tropical island, sleeping peacefully in a luxurious hotel bed. I wish this phase would just end.
I wake up and look into their rooms. They aren’t in their beds yet. My heart jumps into my throat as I look at the clock. 10:30. Their curfew is eleven, and we’ve been asleep since nine-fifteen. Over-forty party animals. I lie in bed and wait patiently for the sound of tiptoeing feet padding down the hardwood hallway. As the clock turns to 10:55, I worry and I think back to when they were little. Keys jingle and I settle. In that moment, I can remember exactly how their tiny voices sounded calling out for momma. How are all those years already gone?
Our youngest had a bad dream and wants me to sleep in her bed. I agree reluctantly, knowing that her sharp elbows and knees will be digging into me while I try to rest. I nuzzle against her warm body, and hum an old Peter Gabriel tune that I used to sing to her while I was pregnant. I can no longer cradle her like I did when she was tiny, but she still fits in my arms. Her breathing steadies and slows. I linger for a while to make sure she’s asleep, and then crawl back into my own bed, exhausted. I’m too tired to function. I wish the nightly nightmares would stop. I wish this phase would just go faster.
My oldest texts me to let me know that practice is running long and they won’t be home in time for dinner. My husband and I eat together alongside two empty places at the table. I put some leftovers in two Tupperware containers and set them on the counter for when the girls get home. While searching for a blue plastic cover, I stumble upon a long-forgotten faded pink water bottle adorned with Disney princesses. A lump forms in my throat and I suddenly miss the mealtime chaos that left me frazzled and frustrated years before. Why did I ever wish the time away?
I’m trying to pull dinner together, and two tiny, tired and hungry humans are whining and hanging on my legs. My efforts keep getting derailed by requests for goldfish crackers, milk, and blueberries. I turn on the television to try and keep them occupied for fifteen minutes while I cook, but the baby keeps climbing to the top of the furniture and the preschooler is yelling that she cannot hear her show because our neighbor is mowing the lawn. I wish they’d just let me cook. I wish they’d just stop needing me so much.
My husband and I enjoy leisurely evenings and dinners for two, relaxing strolls through the neighborhood, and uninterrupted conversation. I talk with my daughters over the phone frequently, but I haven’t seen them in weeks. One is studying abroad for a semester and the other has an apartment in a big city four hours away. I feel proud about all they’ve accomplished, and boundless joy because they’re happy. But my heart aches occasionally for their youth and my own – whenever I hear Peter Gabriel on the radio, look upon empty beds in their old rooms, flip through family photo albums, or find an old toy or long-lost childhood treasure unexpectedly while cleaning.
I smile, tear up, and wish I hadn’t wished it away…Because now I’d give anything to go back for just a day or two.
Our house is quiet and calm. Our babies have grown up. We’ve raised two wonderful people. And in fleeting moments daily, I miss the noisy chaos, the boundless cuddles, and the nighttime wake ups. I wonder where the years went. I suspect I will for the rest of my life.