I remember it like it was yesterday: the elderly woman at church, trying to encourage me as I was wrangling three kids three and under. The mom of teenagers, looking wistfully on as I tried to get my kids through an entire meal in a restaurant without some sort of public humiliation. The old man who stood next to me while my 3-year-old lifted my sundress over my head, revealing my pasty-white and fairly gelatinous rear end (and my torn thong underwear) to everyone in the vicinity.
“Don’t blink,” these well-meaning folks said. “You’ll blink and they won’t be babies anymore.”
And I asked, “Can I blink now? Pretty please?”
Motherhood is exhausting, but never quite so much as when we’re raising babies and toddlers. I was tired, the kind of tired it seems there’s no cure for. I remember how I felt when those people (and countless more) told me to “enjoy every moment,” because it’d be gone before I could blink. Ummmm... You promise?
The days are long, but the years are short... Isn’t that what they say? At the time, I thought I might beg to differ. The days were long, but the years felt longer. SO. LONG.
The diapers. The meal prep. The bathing. The disciplining. The crying and yelling and tantrum throwing. ALL THE THINGS—too many to recount. I was tired, my patience was thin, I was aging at warp speed and I thought I was caught up in a prison of my own making.
Then I blinked.
Yesterday I took all three of children shoe shopping (which, in hindsight, was a terrible idea, and my apologies to the local Target employees). I bought everyone new tennis shoes, because I’m realizing that kids’ feet don’t stay small.
These are the shoes I bought for my almost ten-year-old daughter:
If they look huge, it’s because they are.
I bought my daughter women’s tennis shoes. As in, they were on the women’s shoe aisle, just a stone’s throw away from the glittery, Disney-princess covered tennis shoes of yesteryear. The two sections were only separated by a matter of feet, but it might as well have been a million miles. There’s a huge chasm between childhood and adulthood, and once you take a leap across to the other side, you never go back.
I blinked and suddenly... Here we are.
I know more blinking will happen and more milestones will creep up on unsuspecting me. And I know this is how life goes and how God intends for it to be. I know that it’s good and right.
But now, instead of squeezing my eyes shut so hard that they hurt, willing time to move faster and my kids to grow bigger, I find myself wanting to play the staring game, seeing how long I can possibly go between blinks.
All those well-meaning people were right—and I had no idea. The days are long but the years are so short. Now I, in turn, am becoming one of those well-meaning people, because I’m finally beginning to understand how fleeting this life is.
If you’re a tired mama, especially a mama of itty-bitties, hang in there. It’s hard work—the hardest work. But you can do this and, I promise you, no sooner will you blink before you realize that the years have vanished and your babies are no more. Soon you, too, will be playing the staring game with yourself, willing time to slow down.
Believe it or not, mamas, one day we’ll all join the legions of parents who have gone before us who now take every chance they get to utter these two gut-wrenching words to the ones behind them: