When my children were babies, I’d hear the same thing over and over again: “Enjoy this time! It goes so fast.”
And I’d look at these well-meaning people through bloodshot eyes and think, Are you completely insane?
I’d gotten three hours of sleep, I hadn’t brushed my hair for days, my nipples were cracked and bleeding and the stench of wilted cabbage leaves was emanating from the cups of my giant beige bra. My baby, who I’d put down forty-five seconds ago after an hour and a half of rocking, shushing, bouncing and begging, was awake and crying again. What part, exactly, am I supposed to enjoy? Because if I could hit the fast forward button on all of this, I would. In a heartbeat.
I couldn’t, of course, but in the end it happened anyways. Because now those babies are almost 6 and almost 10 and I can’t quite figure out where all those years went.
One of the best things I’ve ever read about being a parent is this, from an essay by author Anna Quindlen.
The biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.
It rings truer and louder and more forcefully with every passing day.
This isn’t a parenting blog, exactly, but I am a mom and that’s a role that is hard to compartmentalize. I’m a mom when I’m at home with my girls, when I’m in the shower and someone comes asking me for a juice box, when I’m out to dinner with my husband, when I’m squeezed into my cubby office at work. I’m a mom, always.
I’m also a woman who is on the precipice – teetering, grasping – of turning 40 years old. Speaking of time flying, how the hell did that happen? I seem to have missed the part when I became a full-fledged grown-up. But here I am, my face still tingling from the anti-aging moisturizer, Googling “perimenopause early symptoms.”
This is (almost) 40. So far so good.
But if I’m at the halfway mark of this journey, it seems as good a time as any to stop and take stock.
Like a lot of us, I think, I seem to have my head down most of the time. I am buried in life’s tiniest details: What’s for dinner? Where’s the soccer game? When’s the phone bill due? Why is there always toothpaste smeared all over the bathroom counter?
All of this is important – especially that last one because, really, why?? – but it distracts us, or me at least, from the things that matter most. It piles up and up until we can’t see past it at all.
So this is what I want for part two: To smell the roses. To feel the grass between my toes. To breathe the ocean air. To count the freckles scattered across my daughter’s nose. To sip from pretty teacups. To laugh until my gut aches. To watch the sunset. To splash through the puddles. To eat good cheese and drink cheap wine. To hold my husband’s hand. To be kind. To appreciate. To connect.
All I want is to find every beautiful thing.
I want to count them and keep them and make them all matter. And, from time to time, to share them.
So here’s to 40, and to all of the beautiful things out there just waiting.