Not too long ago, I came across an essay titled “Eighteen Summers: It’s All We Get,” that was about savoring each moment we have with our children. The author reminisces about her chubby-legged baby and quickly fast-forwards to that same child’s future high school graduation, pondering whether her tears on that day will be from joy or regret. She then goes on to offer five promises for making the most of each summer because, as she mentions, time is slipping by.
I was still thinking about that post a few weeks later when I took my children to the water park. I watched as they played in the wave pool, my youngest gleefully being buffeted by the waves; each time she got pushed back, she smiled so wide that I could see the gap from her two missing teeth. Last summer, she could only venture in the water with a life vest, usually holding painfully tight on to my hand, and this year, she was body-surfing all on her own as I watched from the edge, only my toes getting lapped by the water. Future milestones flashed before my eyes: driving a car, falling in love, learning to fly. I look forward to each one, just as I look forward to each summer I get to spend with my children; for each summer, there are new experiences that the previous year’s lacked.
Next summer, I anticipate that my youngest will be tall enough to finally ride the bigger slides at the water park. I can’t wait to see the excitement in her eyes and hear her squeal the whole way down.
Time marches on, my children get older, and I’m okay with that.
According to thousands of mothers everywhere, children are growing up at alarming rates. In a month’s time, babies have learned to feed themselves, they have started to walk, they have even — gasp! — gotten bigger. Every day, I see posts on social media where moms are begging for time to slow down.
When it comes to my own kids, I’ve never mourned the passage of time. When I observe my children having a new experience, it feels like a gift. Each time they learn something, I am grateful to be there to witness it. Their growth means they are healthy and thriving, and that’s not something I wish to impede. On the contrary, I want to be the one who pushes them toward their independence. After all, isn’t that my job as their parent?
Gone are the days of leaky swim diapers and timing activities around a nap schedule. This summer, I can bring a book to the water park and do a little reading. I no longer have to hover over my children and stand at the end of every slide waiting to catch them. Their growing up means a little more freedom for them and a little more downtime for me. I’m able to relax, and being more relaxed, I enjoy our outings even more. I can pay attention to the details, the ones that imprint these memories forever so that whenever a certain song plays on the radio, or the sun casts a precise shade of pink in the sky, I am taken back.
We will never be able to slow down time, but we can change our perception of it. By paying more attention to the moments so many moms are wishing to hold on to, time will feel like it’s moving more slowly. It turns out that remembering to post that 6-month milestone photo might be one of the things making it seem like it’s all going by too fast. When we are busy multitasking, when we are operating on autopilot, when we fail to pay attention, that’s when we blink and another year is gone. Ironically, since routine is one of the things that makes time feel like it is moving more quickly, keeping your tyke a tyke would theoretically make the problem worse.
If you really want time to slow down, simply practice mindfulness.
This summer, I plan to take the time to watch them play, to observe how the sun has lightened their hair, to examine the newest freckles on my daughter’s nose. I want to really listen to their stories and take note of the things that make them laugh. My own mother will spend a week with us this July, and not only will she get another slice of summer with me, she will also get to experience it with her grandchildren — days at the lake spent catching crawdads, watching fireworks at night, roasting marshmallows in the backyard, taking an afternoon nap on the hammock in the shade. I’m sure that she will relive some memories from when I was my children’s ages and she was mine. Yet if I asked her if she’d like to go back in time and press pause, I’m certain she would say no.
Slow or fast, there is no guarantee how much time we will get, but I’m going to be mindful for each summer I share with my kids. And when they are grown, I hope I have the opportunity to do it all again with their children.
Life is about moving forward. To stand still means missing out on all that lies ahead.