Savor the moment.
When your children are younger, every day feels like a year. But as they get older, every year feels like a day.
Enjoy these days. You’ll never get them back. Before you know it, they’re out of the house.
This is the easiest time to parent – when your children are young and you are the center of their world.
We’ve all heard these comments, or comments like these. This is the kind of unsolicited advice I love to hear: The suggestions to “savor the moment,” to “enjoy these days,” to not take for granted the gift to parents that babies and young children are.
I clung to these words as a new parent, on the days when everything seemed hard – when I was still new enough to mothering to not understand how relatively minor some of my complaints were. What is a sleepless night or a mural drawn on my kitchen wall? Years, decades, from now, I will smile when I see the smudged fingerprints of my once two-year-old daughter still on the bathroom wall, where she experimented with drawing a landscape with my lipstick. Years, decades, from now, I will still miss when all my children still wanted to crawl in bed with me on a Saturday morning or when they came to me after a scary dream.
I am trying to savor these moments, but I’m surprised by how much I still forget – even when I consciously tell myself to “remember this moment, remember everything about it…the colors, the smell, the feel, the taste.” It’s hard to remember what my oldest child looked like and did in those little moments when she was a baby – without looking at a photograph.
Even now, or perhaps especially now, that I have a new baby, I’m sad about how quickly children grow. I know I only have a couple years before this baby will be bounding away from me, no longer wanting to cuddle most of the day and night, no longer wanting to hold hands while walking across the street, no longer seeking comfort in me for every hurt and frustration.
In even the most attached families, older children and teenagers don’t go to Mom and Dad with every difficult time in their lives. And as they get older, I know that I cannot be everywhere to protect them, not physically and not emotionally. They will encounter situations that I’ve never seen, and even in the scenarios where I have experience, things will be different because that’s how time works…and as their sense of self and independence develop, even as their respect and love for me grows, they will feel a desire – a need – to make decisions on their own, even if they’ve been warned that the consequence may not be pleasant.
It’s a tough realization that these physically intense years of infancy and toddlerhood are indeed the easiest years of childhood, in terms of parenting. That, even though children can pour their own milk as they get older or do any of the myriad things that consumed our time as mothers and fathers of young children, it is soooo much harder on parents emotionally as children grow.
So, yes, savor these moments. Take lots of photographs. Collect your child’s artwork or other seemingly unimportant gifts, like that backyard stick your daughter used to stir her pretend soup of grass. And as you’re washing the fingerprints and drawings off the wall, save a couple…so that you can look back and remember these wonderful years when your children were younger.