As parents of young children, we get this advice all the time: enjoy the moments now, because they will be gone before you know it (the moments and the kids). We already know the truth of this – our oldest is 10 (what?!) and our youngest is four. We’re out of the baby stage and the very young child stage, and I’m not sure how that happened. Must have blinked.
There’s a sadness when you’re finished with a stage. Middle-of-the-night feedings wreak havoc on you, and I still contend there’s no tiredness like the weariness of sleep deprivation brought on by a new baby. Sometimes your eyes just will not open. But you know what? There’s also no sweetness quite like the sweetness of holding a baby by yourself in the middle of the night, the two of you the only ones awake, life’s possibilities before you, his softness snuggling into you, the only sound the swallow of a little throat sucking down that precious bottle. The tiny hands, the chubby legs and cheeks, the eyes that flutter open, the smile that curls up at you. Melts your heart.
I miss that. But I don’t want to miss it so much I miss right now either. I think overall most of us do a pretty good job of savoring the moments. For all the angst that Facebook brings, it’s a really easy way to remember a lot of moments – just scan your timeline or check TimeHop. Pictures are easier to take than ever because we all have a camera all the time. (Developing them is another story. You should see my hard drive. Anybody got any free photo print codes you want to donate to the cause?) You can record funny or poignant anecdotes with words or video in seconds. We’re doing okay at this.
And here’s the other thing – there’s good stuff coming. Just because one great stage is through doesn’t mean all the ones to come will be duds. There’s more fun coming – we’re just shifting the way that fun is delivered. For example, our 10-year old is developing an adult sense of humor. He says things that are legitimately funny, not just little kid cute. He gives me a sly grin when I crack a joke that sails over the younger kids’ heads. He has taken my sports interest and expanded it by a ton – I’m pretty sure he knows more than I do about Kentucky basketball now. I just took him and our 7-year old to Rupp Arena to watch UK play and the look on their faces when they entered the cathedral of college basketball – well, that’s as good a memory as feeding them in the middle of the night a few years ago.
I guess my point is this – like most things in life, it’s a balance. Miss previous stages, sure, but do it with a smile, not with grief. Look forward to the next stage, yes, but do it with anticipation, not with impatience. Most of all, appreciate now, but do it with joy, not with guilt for not doing it enough. Enjoy the already. Look forward to the not yet. You’re here now. Your kids know that. They love you.
We had one of those moments the other night at the dinner table. Just our family, eating, when our five-year old – Mr. Class Clown – decided to eat his french fry in way not approved by Miss Manners. The kids cracked up, my wife and I laughed till we cried and I looked around, thinking, this is one of those moments to savor. I love when the kids’ faces are filled with delight and the pure, unfiltered joy of the innocent. One kid who thrives on making people laugh, his whole body smiling, his dimple a cuteness you can’t resist. The other four, who couldn’t help but laugh at his antics. I love to watch them all. I want this moment forever.
And now that it’s written down and I have a picture in my head – wish you could see it – it’ll be there when I need it.