As long as I’ve had my own child in my arms I’ve been hearing some version of the line from adults my parents’ age (thankfully never from my parents): “Enjoy it while it lasts, sweetie, it’ll be over before you know it.”
Laying aside the fact that I was none of these people’s “sweetie,” the line always bugged me. I had several ready (rude?) responses:
“If they stopped, well, wouldn’t that be worse?”
“Every stage has things you’re glad to get away from too.”
But mostly, I think with my girls the comment didn’t bother me as much as it annoyed me (someone telling me how to feel). I expected to have more kids. I would see this stage again up-close, and for now I was just living my version of “normal.” How many people need (or want) to be told how to be normal?
I have a friend I spoke with over the phone once when we both should have been starting dinner. We talked about being at home, and how glad we were to be our babies’ primary caregiver and the neat things we experience instead of missing. And alternated that with commiserations on the monotony of those days. I loved her summary:
“Every day is so different, and every day is exactly the same.”
Only a week into my third child’s life, I’ve already heard several versions of the line, and find they strike me with more poignancy now. We’ve talked about him being our last baby. It’s a very different feeling on several levels.
There’s relief, of course, the intensity of labor still near enough to be more than a blur in memory.
There’s a funny sort of math– Is this [insert purchase/product here] worth buying for only one baby? Before everything had a lower per-use cost because I knew it’d be used for more than one child. I don’t know that anymore.
And then there’s the line. This time will pass and will (perhaps) never come again.
How can there not be a measure of sorrow in that? It seems I hear it from parents who (I have to wonder) feel guilt about not being present enough for their own children, and as a result feel compelled to warn every baby-holder they see.
I feel confident I am as “present” for my kids as I aught to be. I am not a person who gets the “guilties” very often. But even when someone’s got awful aim, odds are what they’re throwing will hit you if they throw often enough. I find myself trying to duck, because I feel the words bring unnecessary (inaccurate) feelings.
I try to imagine what the speakers mean when they use the line, and try to keep my own heart light. But I still find it muddles me sometimes.
Then I got an e-mail yesterday that managed to communicate the sweet transience of this time, without making me ache for what I can’t (and shouldn’t want to) hold on to.
“I’m thinking you will be pretty busy for the next few years but well worth the time and effort. This is a time you will cherish!”
It encapsulated so well the way I actually feel about this time. It is a busy season, and I want to remember it (we try so hard to take lots of pictures!). I am living it now as God strengthens me, day by day, and by his grace I will be able to look back on this as a sweet time, with wonderful memories, and still be thankful for the time I am in, without any regrets.
So now I have a new line, and it’s a reminder for me, even if it doesn’t have the same significance to anyone else. These precious days with my new baby, my young toddler, my little girl (who wants so much–sometimes– to be a big girl) are days I will cherish years later; as much (maybe) for the grace that got me through them as for the young people that fill them.