My children are 6 and a half, almost 5 and 2. They are not babies anymore. I know, I know…it goes so fast. Kids grow up. From the time you are first visibly pregnant, strangers tell you to enjoy it. They grow up so fast. They are right, of course, though the topic of unsolicited and largely unwelcome parenting advice is for another time (as is the topic of people asking if you are pregnant). It does go fast–sometimes. Other times the clock feels like it is moving about half as fast as a century-old turtle in molasses. The sleep-little nights stack up to a mountain of exhaustion and you feel like it is never going to end.
I have wished out loud more than a few times for time to speed up. I’ve longed for the end of sore nipples and for the diaper deliveries to cease. For the irrational “no” to stop being the most common word that escapes my 2 year old’s mouth. For meals in public and adult conversations that are not cut short by the behavior of tiny-tot tyrants. For a time when I no longer have to brush 3 sets of teeth before I brush my own in the morning. I know I shouldn’t wish for these days to end. Each day is a gift and [insert another e-card inspirational quote and/or phrase here]. There are truly so many wonderful things about babies and small children, but for every delicious first giggle there is a brutal first fit of inconsolable crying. This parenting thing is wonderful, and it’s excruciating.
But the days inevitably go by without our prompting, and babies–they stop being babies. A few days ago, my 2 year old chose to use a potty. We’d placed the green plastic seat in his room weeks ago and I half-heartedly planned for a weekend of potty training that would take place later, when I was ready for it. He had his own ideas though and didn’t wait for me to be ready. I was changing him for bed and he said, “I use da potty.” I smiled and plopped him down, and he immediately employed the receptacle as it was intended. We high-fived and cheered. He shrieked, “I deed it! I deed it!”, while his sisters danced a happy potty dance around him (think the classic sprinkler move…with an imaginary toilet, and the arms are not spraying water…well, you get it). The entire surface of his face was painted with joy. I was watching him watch his sisters and committing his triumphant, scrunched-nose smile to memory, when it hit me. He’s not a baby. I don’t have babies anymore.
This thing that I had wished for in so many low moments had happened. Time was speeding by and it was as bittersweet as the chocolate I used to console myself after they were all in bed that night.
If we are lucky, our kids grow up. We get to see them change and learn new things about the world and themselves. We get to sit across the table from them and hear their thoughts on caterpillars, friendship and why ancient cultures no longer exist. We get to see glimpses of the kind and funny, sarcastic and athletic, cunning and creative adults they will be. And, if we are very lucky, we get to see them actually become those adults.
It was his last day as a baby, but I wished for more. More days with my babies in all of their post-diaper glory, dancing awkwardly in celebration of passing milestones. More time with them not yet embarrassed by my hugs and kisses and still craving bedtime stories. And more days spent enjoying the moment we are in rather than wishing for the clock to speed up.