Hindsight really is 20/20. This adage is no truer for any other feat in life, than for watching our children grow up. One day it seems like all of your energy is spent twittering with the excitement of getting or being pregnant. Than suddenly, all of your attention turns to childbirth. Shortly thereafter, you become a flesh and blood parent completely responsible for the life of your child. And from the day your child is born, one thing is for certain. He or she is blissfully, and successfully growing AWAY from you which is precisely how it is intended.
Each feat achieved by your infant, from being able to support their own head to grasping your hand, to holding their own bottle or sleeping more than a mere 3 hours at a time, is a giant baby step towards the inevitable situation of your child becoming an adult.
Having children and raising them is simply living proof of the larger, majestic circle of life that has been going round and round since the dawn of mankind. One day, regardless of where you are right now you will wake up to the sunshine and realize that there is a semi-adult where a baby used to be. And the realization that children grow up far too fast, will be upon you.
Most people who have raised children will likely admit that while you are riding the wave of parenting, you are hardly taking the time to enjoy the beautiful pipeline that surrounds you. In the initial stages, having an infant in the house is exhausting. You wonder if you will ever sleep an entire night again without being awoken by shrieks and screams. Your life is a mounting pile of diapers, feeding times and snuggling with a human that cannot even tell you they love you. Yet. Then, after what seems like forever yet is simply an instantaneous lurch forward, your child is holding your hands and trying to take steps of their own. They call you by now; they wrap their arms around you and tell you that they love you. You are still tired by this point, but are so enamored with the sheer cuteness of this little person that you can barely think of anything else. In fact, during this infatuation stage of parenting, which is believed necessary so you can actually survive the teenage years without swallowing your young, the world revolves around your child.
As a toddler becomes a pre-schooler, and begins developing a mind of their own you longingly wish for the time when they didn’t know how to speak. It is estimated that a child of 5 years old asks 400 questions per day. And most of these questions are directed at parents, who for now have all the answers. Then, they walk through a wide set of doors into a world of teachers and education, and begin leaving behind their own infatuation of mom and dad. This is a time when parents become reminiscent of the ‘old’ days and begin feeling consumed with the tarry parenting guilt that arises from wishing you had done things different. Better!
Next up, they are graduating from elementary school. They begin having friends of their own. They begin desiring a life outside of the home that involves nearly anybody but mom and dad. They begin to ask fewer questions and put on the facade of being so independent and able to walk on their own, that you may feel like they no longer need you. But they do. In fact, it is more important to keep your hands out at this point in their life, ready to steady them from falling and helping them to keep their balance than it was when they were one year old. Right now, the fall they could have is much further and can damage much more than just their toothy grin or their knees. What makes it so hard is that there is a steady, silent push against you as a parent that comes straight from your children. Again, so many parents become filled with guilt, and have 400 questions of their own to which they won’t likely find the best answers. It’s easy to cry at this point, seeing your daughter wearing a bra, or watching your son go on his first date, or handing them the keys to a vehicle that will do nothing but take them further away from you. And of course, you feel regret again, and are filled with wonder and worry about whether you have done the right thing.
Then one day. Just like that. In what seems like a blink of an eye, they are gone. All you see is the picture of your child as a newborn. The picture you took when they got their first tooth. Then again when they lost it. The first day of kindergarten and the cutesy little play they performed in when they graduated pre-school. More pictures of softball games, birthday parties, and holidays roll through your mind with the clatter of a motion picture reel. You will relive the fights, the arguments. Be consumed with worry. Wonder if you have done enough, or done too much. More pictures of first dates, and memories of conversations and wiping tears will seem like they happened just yesterday. Eighteen years have passed in what now seems like 5 minutes. You wish you had taken that trip to Disney. Wished you had spent more time as a family. You wish with all your heart that you could rewind time, and go back to the singular moments of parenthood where YOU were their everything, and where you could control their fate and constantly ensure that their wellbeing and happiness were protected by the blanket of your love.
But you can’t! All you can do is wait, with the hopeful anticipation that one day soon once their wings become tired from solo flying and they gain a mature perspective of life they will return to your arms and reach for your hands the same way you reached for theirs, in what feels like just yesterday. Yes, children grow up far too fast.