Have you ever smelled something cooking on the stove that reminded you of being in your Granny’s kitchen when you were little? Have you ever heard a song on the radio that instantly takes you back to a memorable time in high school (I see you Young MC)? Have you ever come across an old souvenir that prompts you to think back on a favorite family vacation? In any of these instances, your brain immediately takes you back in time. You see the people, the places, and it feels so familiar. It’s almost as if you’ve hopped in the DeLorean with Marty McFly. That small glimpse of the past puts a smile on your face as you continue through life in the present.
The passage of time is defined differently by each of us. While some use age as a measure, others use events, milestones, smells, or sounds. In this season of parenthood, I find myself measuring time in moments. I will say to my kids, “Do you remember when…” only to realize that while the moment feels like it just happened, it really was so long ago. When you are in the thick of it and the baby won’t stop crying or the kids won’t stop fighting over toys or you are in the car chauffeuring from one activity to another, you long for the end of the day when everyone is tucked away in bed and the house is quiet. But one morning you wake up and realize that the crying baby is now heading off to kindergarten, the fighting kids are no longer playing with toys and the car you used to chauffer in is now being driven by your 16-year-old. When did that happen?
Just this morning while I was helping my 4-year-old get dressed, I realized that the shirt he was putting on was too small. I didn’t remember the shirt being too small the last time he wore it. Did he recently have a growth spurt that I didn’t notice? I looked at him with a sad smile and said, “Stop growing!”
“But Mommy,” he replied, “I want to grow big and tall like Daddy!” “I know you do and I know you will, but could you please just stop for a little bit?” I asked.
I want to savor every last moment of his littleness because I know what is coming next. I watched his big brother grow, unable to stop him, too. My mama heart hurts a bit as I see my babies need me less and less. When did that happen?
As I was walking with my 9-year-old the other day, I took his hand to hold it. Because he’s 9, and too cool for school, he no longer holds my hand back like he did when he was little. He merely appeases me by setting his hand in mine. This particular time though, I asked him to actually hold my hand back. When he did, it instantly occurred to me that his hand felt big. I looked down and realized that our hands were almost the same size. I was no longer holding my baby’s hand, I was holding the hand of a big kid! A big kid whose feet were also close to my same size. A big kid who has homework and chores and expectations daily. A big kid who is navigating a big world. When did that happen?
There is an old photo of my husband and me that fills me with nostalgia each time I look at it. The photo is from one of our first dates. It shows two young college kids with wide eyes and smiles. We had not a care in the world and a whole future in front of us. As my husband and I were recently celebrating our anniversary, we were reminiscing about how different we look now from when that photo was taken 23 years ago. We both agreed that while we know we have changed since our college days, we never noticed it happening. We just suddenly found ourselves in our 40s, raising two children, working hard for our family while sporting more gray hairs than we would like, wearing reading glasses and a few extra pounds. When did that happen?
It really is true that the years go by quickly but the days seem to last for eternity. We never felt those years pass, but they did. I never saw each incremental physical change happen in my babies, but they got bigger. I never wished the years away, but they went. It all happened right in front of my eyes. In plain sight. Time passes, mama, whether we want it to or not. So while the days are messy and hard and seem to never end, they are also full of singular moments that you will look back on and smile and think to yourself, “When did that happen?”