After tucking my 7-year-old boy into bed, after the noise of the day has turned into silence and my thoughts are the loudest sound in the room. After I’ve collapsed onto the couch from another dizzying day of parenting, this low and dull ache begins to form in my chest. Seizing my breath and gripping my heart until I have no choice but to focus in and acknowledge the rapid speed with which time is passing.
I instantly feel panic, and my mind is scattered as I try to remember the last time I really looked at my boy, the last time I really held onto him, the last time he really needed me. He’s growing older with every blink of my eyes and becoming who he’s meant to be faster than I ever thought possible.
Gone is the baby whose survival depended on me. Gone is the little boy who constantly looked to me for guidance and approval. Arrived is this now 7-year-old boy who has unwavering confidence in his choices, thoughts disconnected from my own, and a deep desire for independence. In some ways, it feels as though this metamorphosis happened overnight. But the time that’s passed tells a different story. We’ve spent the last seven years building up to this. I just didn’t know it was coming so quickly. I didn’t know that by 7 he’d already be racing toward what lies on the other side of my four walls.
Back in what now feels like the distant past when it was just me and my sweet baby caught in the crossfire of endless feedings, diaper changes, and sleep training, time seemed to stretch out in front of us for what felt like an infinite period. In those early years of being a first-time mom, life is such a blur of meeting milestones that you’re completely unaware of the significant and precious time that’s slipping right through your exhausted fingertips.
You are merely surviving. Employing massive amounts of caffeine to see you through the fog. During that phase, you’re physically unable to imagine how quickly you and your child will progress from each stage of life to the next as you rush along, rarely pausing to breathe in the very moment where you stand. No one tells you that one day you’ll turn to look at your baby and that baby will be gone.
The reality is, this boy, my firstborn, was never meant to be mine forever, contrary to what my heart tells me each time I see him take another step toward the outside world. I want to shout out, “Hey, where are you going? You belong to me!” But he was always meant to move on and make his own mark. Just like his time in the womb couldn’t be forever, his time in my home won’t be forever. He will be here just long enough to gain his footing, mature, and then move on to his next phase.
When he turned 7, this realization kind of came out of nowhere and hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt stunned. Like the wind had been knocked out of me. Of course this was always going to happen. Seasons change, time silently ticks from one minute to the next, and children inevitably grow up. I know this. It just hadn’t occurred to me until we hit 7. I guess my head was down and I wasn’t paying attention. And now, here we are.
I’ve been making a deliberate effort to stand in the moment more. Feel the weight of his growing body as he crashes into me for a hug, the sloppy kisses that he still doles out lovingly, at bedtime only, of course. The look of his face each day as it gradually morphs and shapes into that of a mature boy and less of my little boy.
I’ve tried to put the pause button on more and consciously reflect on the seven years of hugs, kisses, and love that we’ve shared. And while the ache for my baby doesn’t immediately subside, it slowly turns into gratitude for the time we’ve had. I finally take that much-needed breath while my slumbering child is still safely in a place where I can see him and gaze for just a moment longer before the next phase unexpectedly comes along.