From the time my middle child was about 18 months and my oldest was three, until their little sister came along seven years later, I spent the better part of my days willing time to stop. Or, at the very least, slow waaaaaaaaaaaaay down. Everything that my two children were doing was just too precious, too sweet, too adorable. And I knew it wouldn't last forever.
Then, as we rushed from preschool days to elementary days, from swim lessons to guitar lessons, from dance recitals to baseball games, I quickly learned that time truly does move at warp speed when you have children in the throes of their innocent years.
And then along came our precious surprise!
All of a sudden, we were all thrown right back into the newborn days. Days filled with crying and spit-up and utter exhaustion. Days that seemed to last 1,000 hours. Before I knew it, I noticed I was spending the better part of my days willing time to speed up.
I counted the moments until my baby would sleep through the night. And then counted the moments until I was done nursing. And then counted the moments until she could crawl. And walk. And talk.
Each milestone was met with sheer joy, as I knew I was that much closer to times when life would return to where my sweet spot of mothering seemed to be—with slightly older children.
But, you know what happened while I was wishing time away? My older two got even older. And not just in the physical way. Not just in the literal way. They lost that precious, sweet, adorable innocence. They became "big kids." And as I began to wake up from the blur that is life with a newborn, I realized that I had missed out on their last slivers of childhood in the midst of wishing time away.
Their growing up was inevitable, yes. But what really pains me is that I didn't stop to really enjoy them in my moments of sheer survival. Oh sure, I loved on them. And cuddled with them. And tried with all my might to do as much as I could with them. But a lot of what I did with them, I had to only give them part of myself.
Pumpkin carving was done by their uncles. We moved Thanksgiving to their aunt's house, even though hosting it is one of their favorite traditions. I ordered everything for Christmas off Amazon. My son didn't participate in Valentine's Day at school, even though it was his last opportunity to do so. We didn't dye Easter eggs or visit the Easter Bunny. I sent them on "family" vacations with my parents because the thought of dragging the baby along was just too much.
Now, I know every person reading this will say "You can't beat yourself up over that!" "You were doing the best you could and that was enough!" "They still know how much you love them!" And while I know all that to be true, I can't help feeling guilty for what I have missed.
So, I have made myself a promise. I am going to stop wishing time away during the harder moments. I am going to look for the light, even when it seems like its mostly darkness because, as I've learned, its never "easy" to be a mother—no matter the stage. I'm certain there will be lots of opportunities for me to will time away. But in doing so, I now know that I will miss out on something.
With the very large age gap between my oldest and youngest, I will never again live exclusively in the sweet spot, where all my children are pure and innocent. I will worry about my oldest and his exposures in the world of social media while enjoying my youngest's Christmas pageant. I will deal with my middle child's acne while watching my oldest graduate from Middle School. I will handle my youngest's tantrums, while celebrating my daughter's artwork.
There will be bittersweet moments mixed in with joyous moments mixed in with frustrating moments. Life will be like that proverbial box of chocolates. Each day will be a different surprise, with some moments melting in my mouth while others leave a taste I don't really like.. I have accepted that.
But I'm hopeful that the coming years will bring more good candies than bad. Because I want to spend my time living in the present and really experience everything that comes our way. Life, even on its toughest days, is far too short and far too fast to wish away.