After our typical weekly Netflix-binging-date-night recently, we forgot to turn off the Apple TV in our room as we went about our nightly routines. I brushed my teeth, slipped on my favorite pajamas and climbed back in bed as I waited for my husband. The TV screen distracted me, and I sat there, captivated, watching the slideshow that popped up.
You see, a few years ago, I had the great idea of synching our family snapshots to my iTunes account, so we could display our pictures and see all the ages and stages of our kids. We don’t really look at our photo albums, so I thought it would be a cute idea to be able to see our older pictures and relive moments gone past.
Well, like many of my great ideas, I got around to synching exactly one month’s worth of pictures before getting distracted and never returning to this project. January 2009 to be exact. Back when we only had one child, our sweet 15 month old baby girl. (yes, the same baby girl who is about to turn 9)
I sat frozen on the bed, my eyes glued to the same 20 photos cycling around the screen. My sweet bald headed baby girl grinning at me. Trips to the park. Dressing up in tutus and fairy wings. Proudly wearing her “big sister” shirt to announce the baby that we lost a month later.
What happened to that baby girl? I felt my heart rate rise as the anxiety churned around in my head and chest. Those days are forever gone. This baby on the screen is younger than my current “baby.” So when I say forever gone, it’s not just for that child, but for all children in this house. Did I waste those days? Did I spend too much time worrying about what I needed to accomplish and not enough time paying attention to my sweet baby who will never be a baby again? Maybe I did. I get too caught up in trying to stay on top of what I feel like I need to be accomplishing that I didn’t put enough emphasis on what truly was the most important thing of all.
I laid awake most of that night, letting my anxiety eat away at me. I screwed it all up. I didn’t fully understand that I only had one shot, that those days before school schedules were truly that limited.
And then something pretty cool happened.
I eventually fell asleep. When I woke up the next morning, I heard voices downstairs. Those sweet, small voices of my kids.
My oldest was making breakfast for her brother and sister. They let me sleep in as they crept downstairs to eat. (Less than a year ago, my youngest preferred to run into my room the instant she awoke at the crack of dawn, prying my eyelids open and yelling “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” in my face while giggling)
Ok, this is kind of cool.
The older two dressed, brushed their teeth, and ate without needing someone hovering and prompting each step. I thought about that most of the morning after they were on the bus, as my little sidekick and I went about our morning.
It was time to take her to preschool, so I grabbed the diaper bag on our way to the car. I paused as I looked through the bag. Do I really need this? Have I been carrying this for months out of habit? I’ve always needed it, for the past 8, nearly 9, years. We were either in the land of diapers and spit up cloths and receiving blankets, or toddlers with a million toys to distract them and a ton of snacks, pull-ups and multiple changes of clothes, disposable plastic placemats for restaurants (to avoid broken plates flung on the floor). By the time we got to the end of this toddler/preschool stage, I was pregnant again and we knew we were about to start all over again. True, we haven’t mastered potty training yet, but I realized I didn’t truly need this gigantic bag. A change of clothes, 2 pull-ups, a pack of wipes, and my wallet was more than enough.
I gleefully stopped by Target to buy my first “Mom purse” : a bigger purse that was still about half the size of the tote bag I had been schlepping around for almost a decade. The tote bag that had dutifully served as our diaper bag was tucked away in the closet. Closing the door on that bag felt so final, but I can’t say I was sad over the end of butt-wiping.
That weekend, we went to Hershey Park with the kids– our first time as a family. It was also our first day trip where we were stroller-free. I marveled at this as we didn’t have to stop to find stroller parking for each ride. (I did miss cup holders, though, haha) We stayed at the park until 10pm and no one melted down. No highchairs when we wanted to eat, no struggling to find a changing table.
I’ve written about this mental struggle of mine before, of the panic when I realize how fast they are growing. Apparently I need to continually learn and relearn this lesson.
Growing up isn’t a series of endings, but rather a constant adventure of new beginnings.
It’s okay if those early years are a blur. They are hard. It’s an adjustment phase. If I spend all my time looking back, I’m going to miss out on the adventure and fun that is now.