I believe that the one thing all parents have in common — one struggle all parents share — is coming to terms with the passage of time.
When we become parents, the passage of time seems to accelerate.
Time turns our babies into toddlers; our toddlers into preschoolers; and our preschoolers into kids who grow into adults. The passage of time is always evident as we raise our kids, bombarding us with tangible reminders. We see it when we replace tiny clothes with bigger ones each season. We see it when we find old bottles or pacis tucked away in the back of the cabinet and realize we’ve flown past that stage and won’t be needing those anymore. We see it when we send our sweet babies off to kindergarten for the first time. We see it when our weekends are suddenly free because the kids have plans of their own. And we see it when (God help me prepare for this one!), we face the empty bedroom of a kid who’s gone off to college.
What this passage of time really represents is change.
As a parent, things are always constantly changing. And sometimes, is it hard to keep up, hard to accept, and hard to adapt. Most of the time, in my experience so far, the change is bittersweet. It’s a little sad to see an old phase pass, but the excitement of the new phase makes up for it. But I’m sure that won’t be the case 100% of the time. There are bound to be at least a few changes that I simply do not want to happen, that I refuse to accept until I have to. I’m sure there will be endings to a few beautiful seasons only to be replaced by not-so-beautiful ones. But then those seasons will pass as well and so life goes.
Sometimes, before I can fully grasp one stage, I can feel it slipping through my fingers as the next one looms ahead on the horizon. It gradually comes into focus and then I take a deep breath trying to experience it fully before it, too, is gone.
It’s such an old cliché that “this moment is all we really have,” but in raising children, I have found this to be absolutely true. We can’t wait until tomorrow to appreciate our sweet chubby baby, or our curious toddler, or our blossoming pre-schooler. If we wait until we have time to sit and relax to appreciate life, it will be too late. We have to find some way to enjoy life as we live it. We have to pay attention.
I used to think that I was supposed to be doing something special or important with my time. I believed the little things that I was doing, the seemingly insignificant things like chores or cooking or homework were keeping me from more important things. Now that I have kids and time is flying by, I realize that these tasks are the most important things. They’re not a distraction from the real thing, they are IT. They are the small everyday moments of life. And I’ve found that the only way to slow time down (or at least keep it from going warp speed) is to lean into these moments as if they are the real thing, with no expectation of anything else.