“Treasure this time,” older parents often say when they see young mothers wrangling little ones. “It goes by so fast.”
It’s the advice moms with babies and toddlers love to hate. When you’re deep in the trenches of intense motherhood, the last thing you want to hear is that you should be trying to enjoy it more. You are trying. And some of it — a lot of it — is simply not enjoyable. Truly.
But at the same time, it does go by fast. I think all of us know this intuitively, even during the times when it seems to be dragging on. We can see our children growing and changing before our eyes. Every new milestone reminds us that this is a one-way street. No matter how much we wish we could make them, children don’t ever get younger.
The only remedy for that heartbreaking truth is to stop every so often, hit the “pause” button, and fully drink in who your children are in the moment.
I do this sometimes during the most mundane of moments with my kids: when my 12-year-old is curled up on the couch reading a book, when my 7-year-old giggles hysterically at a Winnie the Pooh video, when my teenager and her friends talk to each other in British accents just for fun. These simple snapshots of their current personalities and interests always strike me when I stop and take stock. They are so beautiful, my kids.
And I, we, all of us are in danger of missing out on these moments when we blink. Life gets busy, we get entrenched in schedules, and kids get involved in various activities. Before we know it, another year has passed.
It gets worse as the kids get older. I have a gorgeous baby book for my first child, a full-on scrapbook with cute little die-cut baby rattles and newborn smile montages — the works. I had time to treasure those baby months and even to record them in a creative way. Our second baby has a half-filled photo album. Our third kid? Photos on a hard drive somewhere.
The truth is that time accelerates as your kids get older, and if you don’t purposefully, intentionally pause to reflect, you lose out on some of the best parts of parenthood.
You might also find yourself getting lost.
Hitting “pause” isn’t just vital for you to not miss your kids’ childhoods It’s also important for you to get your mind and heart right. As your children grow and change, so do you, but your growth and change often gets overshadowed by that of your kids. We all know we need to take time to fill our own cups and give ourselves a break, but we need to make sure self-reflection is part of that “me time.”
The tricky part, of course, is not getting so caught up in the day-to-day grind that we forget to stop and take stock. It can feel like there’s no opportunity to stop, like we’re on a busy freeway with no exits. Obviously, we can’t actually halt everything in order to smell the flowers.
But we can remember to be in the moment more often. We can breathe deeply amid the craziness and seek beauty in the chaos. We can embrace the brief moments of calm that occasionally come our way. Even if we can’t stop the world, we can stop internally — hit “pause” on the deluge of thoughts and worries that flood our minds on an hourly basis and look at how far we and our children have come.
We may not be able to treasure every moment, but we can appreciate more of the moments we have if we consciously make an effort to do so.