The days are bittersweet—full of sadness. The other day as we had the windows open, I heard the sounds of the neighbor’s children bouncing on their trampoline, toys strewn across the yard and a slip-n-slide laid out, slowly killing the grass underneath. 

Sadness flooded me as, for the first time, I realized that it wasn’t my kids outside enjoying the summer of childhood. Enjoying the sun-soaked days, when all three of them would splash and play in our back yard in an inflatable pool, our grass slowly dying from a wet slip-n-slide atop of it. 

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I took pictures of all three of them lined up on the deck, lying on their towels to dry off in the July sun. My babies, who I still had to help with the sunscreen, prepare snacks for and tie water balloons for.

The days are long but the years are short.

Now I sit on this deck alone, reminiscing about summers past, about those milestones like when they were first tall enough to go down the waterslides at the pool, when they passed the deep-end test or when they first mastered the monkey bars on their own. The milestones are a little less subtle and less celebratory like those summer birthday parties we had complete with a pirate cake, piñata and scavenger hunt for gold in our backyard. 

Now they’re all surly teenagers; driving, spending time with friends, working or enamored with the latest Tik Tok video on their phones. There’s less time for mom and dad, which is how it should be. My husband, who always has sage advice for me when I enter into these emotional states of nostalgia reminds me, “This is the goal, they’re supposed to grow up.” And I know he’s right, but I can’t help sniffle a little looking at my kids’ hands and feet that are now bigger than mine, and their eyes that I now have to look up to. 

It’s every old cliche, good-intentioned advice, “The days are long but the years are short.” But no one tells you how short. Like really short.

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I cried the day we took the crib down for the last time and was melancholy the day we took our play-set out of our backyard—a neighbor even came over to our fence to remark about the emotional enormity of it. How can it be? 

Yet I know this fact: The day I came home from the hospital with my first baby, I cried because I knew from each day forward, he’d take small and then bigger steps away from me. Before they leave for good, like in the words of Thoreau, I’ll suck the marrow out of the days I have with them—enjoying their forward progress and their new adventures. 

It’s as it should be. And for now, as the shouts and laughter from the neighborhood kids fill my ears, I’ll remember how it used to be when my kids were the loudest in the neighborhood—laughing and shouting—and I’ll think about what fun we had in the sun then.