So much of what I thought about being a mom before I was a mom turned out to be false. For example, before I had kids, I didn’t know a particular cliché would stir up so much confusion and doubt for me. In fact, I thought it would be easy to graciously accept this reminder, no matter the source and no matter the circumstance. Turns out, I was wrong.
I was at the grocery store with both girls, and we were almost done with our massive grocery haul. With the exception of the last 10 minutes, the trip had gone pretty well. As is typical, as we were finishing our trip they were both losing it. My three-year-old and I were at odds over a sugary drink, and not to be left out, my one-year-old was just crying indiscriminately.
And then it happened. As I struggled to unload the cart, I made eye contact with an older man in the next aisle. He smiled, and I don’t really know what my face looked like. I was getting ready to say: Thanks, I would love some help, but that wasn’t necessary because the help offered wasn’t with my cart; it was with my mindset.
“You know,” he said slowly, “you’re not going to believe me, but you’re going to miss this.”
As is typical when someone says something good-natured, I forced a smile. “That’s what they tell me,” I managed to say. I kept unloading, trying to hurry. Both girls had quieted down by that point.
On the drive home, with two happy kids in the backseat listening to the Frozen soundtrack and consuming fruity pouches of some kind, I decided to do a little digging into my feelings around this exchange. It wasn’t the first time I heard that advice, and it wasn’t the first time I felt mixed-up afterwards. What was it about that well-meaning offering of wisdom that consistently troubled me?
Maybe I feel confused because I associate this advice with meltdowns; that’s when I hear it most. To me, there is no worse sound than my own child crying. My shoulders tense, my internal panic systems kicks-in, and my brain screams “You should be helping that human you are solely responsible for!” It goes against my instincts to ignore their crying. Meltdowns are really terrible for everyone involved.
Maybe I feel sad for a lonely parent who is missing little humans. This person is often observing the low point of my day, and seeing what I have with fresh eyes. Someone else wants this. This man was missing what he used to have. Maybe I was taking on some of his sadness; that’s how I work.
And yet, I suspect the biggest reason I commonly get tripped up by this comment is that it shines a giant spotlight on something that quietly haunts me daily: time is a thief. Every single day I see them change; sometimes the change is small, and sometimes it is massive. Tiny shadows of what used to be slip away and make room for bigger ones. Nothing has ever confused me like trying to reconcile feeling unbelievably proud of their progress while mourning the passing of their littleness.
My heart leaps when I catch little glimpses of their “big people” personalities; they already are unique and special. I work daily to put myself out of a job, the only one I have ever felt born to do.
On a day that feels centuries away, yet gets closer with each moment, I will cry and I will dance as I watch my arrows launch.
So I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine I will miss getting screamed at because I won’t let someone with the strength of a tiny wild stallion purchase a 5-hour energy drink with money she doesn’t have. Maybe I won’t miss that exact moment. But I will miss my little friends: my favorite side-kicks, the ones that call me mommy, the people I would die for. Every day, I see pieces of glory and light reflected by two little humans with big things ahead of them.
How could I not miss this?