When you have children, time becomes a strange and elusive thing. It stretches out for you in overwhelming infinity and then snaps back tight like a rubber band, giving you whiplash. I find myself wishing for time to slow down and speed up in the same breath. And feeling guilty for both of those wishes.
In the early days of my firstborn I felt like time was drawn out with the slowness of pouring molasses. Endless naps and endless crying and endless anxiety. I wished for my baby to be awake more, to cry less, to talk, to walk. Days went on forEVERRR. In those days of maternity leave when my husband came home from work and asked me what I had done all day, I felt like I had done everything and absolutely nothing. I had had all the worries, all the struggles, all the emotions, but nothing to show for it. I did not earn a merit badge for getting through that Thursday. But I felt I should have.
I loved my baby’s firsts but I was constantly looking for the next. First solid food? Check, but so excited about when I could feed him his first Thai food. First step, but when could he ride a bike?
I was also struggling and looking for the part I felt was beyond the struggle. When they could hold their head up, when they could feed themselves, when they could walk, when they could talk and tell me what was wrong with words instead of tears. I felt guilty for wishing time would move faster, guilty for not enjoying the baby steps more. And all along the way are people telling you how wonderful it all is. Usually grandmotherly types encouraging you to soak up every minute. “They won’t be babies forever!” And you smile weakly and nod, but you are tired, so tired, and it seems all uphill from here. Their words cut straight to your heart. You feel guilty for not loving this moment. Being present in this moment. Let me tell you something- in this moment I was most likely not showered for at least two days, my clothes were stained with milk, or snot or spit-up (or bonus grand slam- all three!) and I exhausted to the point of seeing double. So, if I could go back to give myself some wisdom, it would be “You’re allowed not to love the present moment. Some of these moments are pretty unloveable.”
On a vacation to Puerto Rico, our flight was delayed three hours, putting us squarely past bedtime. Elliott was tired and cranky and could not get comfortable and he cried non-stop all the way back to D.C. Time has never ever moved so slowly in the history of the universe. Surrounded by angry faces, those hours felt like decades.
Despite sometimes wishing away these moments, moving slowly through the quicksand of time that engulfs you, you hit milestones and wonder inexplicably, where the time went? You find yourself planning your little’s first birthday party and have no idea how you got there. Time warp.
With my second, it’s a whole different ball game. We only wanted two kids, so I know this is my last baby. I savor many more moments. I live for every giggle and gurgle. I hold him more, and for longer than I probably should. I am completely to blame for this one being an unapologetic Mama’s Boy. I try to stop time, to hold it tight. To keep him little and lap sized forever. Or at least a little bit longer. I love his goofy little voice and his strange foreign jabbering, and don’t wish for him to talk any sooner than normal. I find myself holding back from being the woman in the grocery store who tells that tired mama “They won’t be babies forever!” And then I remember that’s a terrible idea! I waver. Do I tell them instead, “It’s ok not to love this moment.”? What if they ARE loving this moment? Everyone’s moment is different. And the next moment will be completely different.
I do wish ahead, though. Even now. I still try to peek into time and find the golden moment that seems a little easier. I sometimes wish for my boys to be 3 and 6, which in my head is some magical time when they will be fully engaged and play with each other endlessly and we can go everywhere and do everything. They will be somewhat self sufficient and mostly potty trained and I will be finally unencumbered by a diaper bag. But I’m sure when I get there I will be wishing for something else. Whether I will be wishing to go forward or go backward, I do not know. Or maybe it WILL be that golden moment and I will want to stop time right there.