Each stage has its hardships, but also has its glories.
I don’t really like the newborn stage. There. I said it.
I’m not sure why it’s acceptable to not love the “terrible twos” or the teenage years, but frowned upon to wish the newborn stage away. But it is. Maybe it’s because babies are just so precious. Or because they are so helpless. Or so teeny.
But, all those things aside, I’m just not a fan of sleepless nights or inconsolable crying or non-stop nursing. I have often said, if a baby came out as a 6-month-old, I would have had 10 more babies—but those first few months are just awful to me.
So, when I had my third baby, I found myself counting the days until she turned six months. Every time I woke to nurse I would think, I am that much closer. Every one week celebration would be met with a “another week down, xyz more to go.” I literally spent every waking moment wishing time away.
But, as mentioned, she was my third. I also had a 10-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter who were in the throes of their childhoods. And I felt guilt. Extreme, heart wrenching guilt. Because I so did not want to wish their little lives away. If anything, I wanted quite the opposite; for them to remain exactly where they were in time.
This point was brought more fervently to me upon a trip into their elementary school . I was savoring the hour away from my littlest. And as I rounded the corner, heading back to the cafeteria from the front office, I was met by a first grade class. In that moment, for some reason, I could see my youngest. Clearly and precisely. It was as if time—that terrible monster—had indeed sped up right in front of my eyes. I could feel her as a first grader and knew it would be here in an instant.
And I almost lost it.
I rounded yet another corner and stumbled upon two middle school girls putting up a poster. And I could see my middle child. Clearly and precisely. I could feel her as a teenager getting ready for high school. And, I remember thinking, high school is going to be here before I know it.
And I almost lost it.
I then entered the cafeteria, and my 8-year-old daughter came running at me with such love and enthusiasm that I buckled. She grabbed me in the biggest bear hug and held on with all her might.
And then I did actually lose it. Because I wanted nothing more than to freeze time, right then and there. I didn’t want my baby to be a first grader and I didn’t want my middle to be a teenager. I didn’t want my oldest to ever move away. I wanted time to stop and allow me to enjoy my children who loved me with every fiber of their being, the way they do right now.
My son then entered the cafeteria. All 10 years and 100 pounds of him. I asked him if it was still cool to sit with his mother and he said, without question, “YES MOM!” I waited to see if he would hug or kiss me, and without a pause, he did.
And I could see him as a high schooler. I knew that he would not be in this school much longer, nor would he want to eat lunch with his mother or hug her in the cafeteria. But in that moment, he wanted nothing more than that. And I wanted to hold on to that moment, with every fiber of my being.
As I drove home, I was met with the ghost of my big kids’ past. I passed the playground where I wished for nothing more than for my son to be able to go down the slide by himself or for my daughter to be able to swing without assistance.
I also passed the house where I can see—as clear as can be—my 2-year-old son trick-or-treating as a pirate while my husband held my 7-month-old daughter dressed as a cat.
It literally seemed like just days ago, as opposed to years. I passed the pool where my kids learned to swim and the trail where they learned to ride bikes. All places where I thought, I can’t wait until they can do these activities without assistance (while also being in awe of the learning process.)
I then entered the house where they learned to roll over and crawl and pull up and walk and talk. And, again, felt as if those milestones were met just a little bit ago rather than an eternity. And I realized—at every stage, I simultaneously wanted them to move on to the next phase and yet remain right where they were.
So, mamas, my advice to you is this. Each stage has its hardships, but also has its glories. Learn from the hard and revel in those good moments—no matter how big or small. Because, in just a hot second, you will be on to the next and the next and the next.
And before you know it, your child will be hanging posters in the middle school hallway while you wish desperately that you could go back to those sleepless nights.
It really does go in a blink, even when it feels like a lifetime when you’re in it—in those exhausting raising-little-kids days. But what I truly understand now is that if you don’t stop to enjoy the present, future-you will do nothing but wish she could return to the past.