“There are moments that I wish could last forever. If only I could tuck some of these precious memories away into a box, to recall and relive at a moment’s notice… The moments I’d save wouldn’t be big ones. They are the little things that mean so much but pass away so soon. The way my toddler says “Mama, I want to kiss your face!” and then kisses each side of my face so gently. The way my 3yo marches so intently while she sings. The sweet things that my 5yo says each day…”
That’s the introduction I wrote in 2013. Those few short sentences have been sitting in my drafts folder since then, untouched and untitled and still so painfully true. In fact, before peeked at this post today, I had almost completely forgotten about how Joey used to kiss both sides of my face all the time and how Makayla used to march as she sang. Joey is five years old now and Makayla is six – and they both left those stages behind so very long ago.
Time is so wonderfully yet painfully brief.
My days of diaper-changing are disappearing fast. The baby bottles, formula, and long nights full of feedings have already faded away. Someday soon, I won’t have to dodge stuffed animals and spilled Lego bricks to cross my living room floor. No little child will sneak into my room for middle-of-the-night comfort. The little fingers that play with my hair, pull me around by the hand, tug on my clothes and tap me incessantly for attention will soon be too busy to reach for me. Before I know it, I’ll be wondering when I last washed their hair or picked out their clothes… and I’ll be wondering where the time has gone.
I know this because I already wonder… when did I make that last bottle? When did I last hold him in the middle of the night when he cried for me? When was the last time that our oldest snuggled into our bed in the middle of the night with a bad dream and nearly pushed me out of bed because he insisted on sleeping sideways? I find myself craving dates, times, concrete memories to cling to… but all I have are the blurry memories of a mother that worked too hard and moved too fast to notice that our new normal didn’t include these things.
It’s been 3,629 days since I became a mother.
That doesn’t sound like much… because it isn’t. Time is so short.
What a difference two years can make!
The saddest thing is that I spent so much of their younger days thinking and planning and dreaming for the future. I worried about money. I worked too hard. I obsessed over little things like spilled milk and toppled laundry piles. I agonized over dishes that never seemed to get done and laundry piles that never seemed to shrink. I dreaded the long nights and endless feedings, the multiple diaper changes that resulted from having three kids in diapers at the same time and the endless food fights with my picky eaters. I worried incessantly about bills that needed to be paid, appointments that needed to be made, places I needed to be and things I needed to do and why does she always lose that shoe?! I yelled and I muttered and I stomped around angrily because motherhood is chaos and it isn’t always beautiful. There were many times when I missed my younger days, when someone else made my breakfast and cleaned my house and paid my bills… and I wondered if I’d ever get this motherhood thing figured out.
And I invested so much of my time and energy and thought and worry into thinking about all these things that I forgot that motherhood starts with being a mother: with being fully and completely present for your children, to love them and teach them and hold them and nurture them and talk to them and most of all just be with them.
By the way… by ‘their younger days,’ I mean yesterday and every day before it.
They were definitely younger yesterday, right?
Being a good mom, I’ve realized, isn’t what happens at the end of the to-do list. Good mothering isn’t what happens when you finally get the family games out because the kitchen table isn’t sticky and the floors are actually clean… or when you plan the perfect homeschool lesson or when you finally stick to your schedule or you throw a Pinterest-perfect birthday party.
Being a good mom is what happens before, during, because of and in spite of all those things. Motherhood is found in the laundry pile, the dishes, the playground and the homework. It’s in the family games and the chores. It covers the sticky table, the cluttered house, the unpacked boxes and the messy floors with grace and forgiveness and nobility because you are there and your children are there and that’s enough.
And when you embrace that, you can take it a little easier, be a little less tired and enjoy yourself (and your children!) a little more. Worry less about the future and live a little more in the ‘now.’ You won’t enjoy every moment but you can enjoy at least a few moments in every day.
Because it all works out in the end – and the end comes faster than you think.
The spills and bills and appointments and messes that I spent so much time and energy focusing on are all long-gone. Many, may new troubles have come and gone since then… but the one thing that remains constant is the people I love and live with. Although I remember my distraction, my exhaustion and my never-ending to-do list, I don’t remember the details… but I do remember the missed opportunities to live, love and be present with my family on so many days that I will never get back.
And so, my friends, this is a plea to you and me –
Remember that ‘this too shall pass.’ The bad and the good in this life are both so short-lived… don’t worry so much today that you forget to make good memories for tomorrow.
Remember that a person to be loved is infinitely more important than a problem to be solved. Your children care much more about spending time with you than they do about having a clean house or even matching shoes. Sometimes, we need to be like little children.
Remember that messes and chaos aren’t the worst things in the world… and every single person on this earth is so busy wrestling with their own stuff that they don’t notice yours as much as you might think they do.
This post was originally published on NicoleThelin.com on February 29, 2016.