I’ll never forget the first time someone said it to me.
I was two weeks postpartum with our first son. No one was sleeping at all–not my husband, not my son, not me. (We were still in that first baby phase where everyone in the house wakes up to help with every diaper and feeding. It was a short-lived but brutal phase.)
My body was still recovering from giving birth; my mind still adjusting to the new realities of breastfeeding, being constantly on-call, giving up any semblance of a routine.
Daryl and I got our shoes and coats on–it was October in Wisconsin–and pushed the stroller around the block a few times to soothe the crying baby. We ran into an acquaintance, a kind older woman who we knew from seeing her around town.
She leaned into the stroller and smiled.
“Enjoy every moment,” she said. “They grow up so fast.”
“Good,” I said, exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, I loved our baby fiercely, but the idea of him not growing out of a stage where he needed to eat every two hours and couldn’t differentiate day from night was a little bit horrifying.
Yesterday I stood with other moms and dads and watched as Lincoln’s TK class sung “Hip-Hip-Hip-Hippopotamus” and “Jesus Loves Me” at his last preschool chapel service. I cried.
He grew up so fast.
Granted, preschool graduation doesn’t mean he’s about to head off to UCLA, but still, it’s a milestone. I remember dropping him off for his first day of school. He was barely potty trained, with wispy blonde hair and a shy smile. Today he can read, he’s learning to write, he has enough attitude for three kids his age and enough sweetness and spunk for us to forgive all his attitude.
I’d love to go back in time for one more newborn snuggle with him, but only for a moment. Truth be told, I love the season we’re in. I’m proud of the boy he’s becoming. I want him to stretch and grow and unfurl his wings, to make mistakes and try new things and discover his passions.
I don’t want him to stay little forever.
The speed with which this time passes is a gift, friends. Just like no one can survive in the early stages of falling in love for long–I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I want to be with this person EVERY WAKING MOMENT–it’s merciful that the phases of childhood are just that: phases.
Each season has its sweetnesses and challenges. Our task is to enjoy them when we can and endure them when we can’t, to teach and shepherd and discipline, to make time and take time, to teach the faith and try to remember to laugh.
And in the frustrating moments, it helps me to remember what they say about the weather in Wisconsin:
“Don’t like it? Wait five minutes.”
The tantrums? They pass. The overflowing diapers? They become a distant memory. My five-year-old no longer needs my help getting dressed, washing his hands, putting on his shoes, clearing the table. Before I know it, he’ll be behind the wheel of a car.
Okay, now I’m crying again.
It’s been an amazing five-and-a-half years. But truth be told, I didn’t enjoy every moment. Sometimes I missed out on opportunities to do so, and I regret a few of those. To be a human is to have some regrets. But sometimes I didn’t enjoy a particular moment because not every moment is enjoyable.
(Though some moments, like the time Daryl jumped in front of a veritable poop fountain because he “didn’t want it to get on the carpet” have become much more enjoyable in the retelling…)
Friends, fellow parents, our kids are going to grow up fast. And that’s okay.
We won’t enjoy every moment And that’s okay, too.
I want to be a parent who champions my child’s milestones rather than bewailing the fact that each one means that child is one step closer to full independence. (Jennifer Grant has a great article to that end in this week’s Christianity Today.)
Don’t get me wrong–I am going to cry at each and every graduation for each and every one of my kids. That’s a non-negotiable.
But I’m also going to celebrate.
Good job, Lincoln. I’m proud of you.