I don’t think I can count the number of times over the past 16 years that a well-meaning older mother has looked at my little brood of children and said through teary eyes, “Enjoy every minute. You’re going to miss these days.”
Such a kind and beautiful sentiment which I have always tried to receive graciously and politely, even though I’m usually at my wit’s end when it’s said to me (which is likely what prompted the well-meaning comment in the first place). I tell myself, she’s right, these children are a tremendous gift in my life and I need to remember to enjoy each moment. But let’s be honest, I’m just trying to get through the grocery store without screaming at my children in public. It’s hard to enjoy the beautiful gift of my children when they’re fighting and trying to escape the grocery cart.
Not so long ago I had four children ages five and under. That’s probably the point in my life when I heard “you’re going to miss these days the most”. I remember thinking, are you crazy?! I am NOT going to miss these days. And to be completely honest, I still don’t miss those days. It was hard and most days I remember praying that I would keep my sanity. I’m not far enough removed to glamourize the memories of sleep deprivation, dirty diapers, loading multiple small children in winter gear into a minivan at 20 degrees below zero….nope, I just don’t miss those days.
Ten years have gone by since that chaotic beginning to our family life. My oldest is now 15 and we’ve expanded our family to seven children. As I look around at my family now, I can say without a doubt that I AM going to miss THESE days. It seems we’ve entered a sort of magical period in our family life where we all still live under one roof and the older children are able to help with the younger children, freeing me up to go to the grocery store without any of them trying to escape the grocery cart. Yes, I need to buy more food than you can even imagine, and the cooking and the dishes and the laundry are really pretty ridiculous, but I’m definitely going to miss these days.
When I imagine walking through my home 20 years from now, past empty bedrooms and sitting down to my morning coffee with silence all around me, I know that my heart will ache for this moment. My eyes tear up just thinking about it. Sure, we’ll hopefully have new joys to celebrate with grandchildren and spouses coming into our family, but this special period of our family life is something I’m sure I will long for when I am the old woman in the grocery store watching a young mother struggling with her toddlers. When that day comes, I’ll have to remind myself that it was not those early years that were so hard that I am aching for. I’ll have to catch myself from saying something very unhelpful like, “you shouldn’t be so stressed, you’re going to miss these days.” Instead I’ll look her in the eye and tell her that it is all worth it in the end. That I know she’s overwhelmed right now, but that the light at the end of the tunnel is very close and in just a few years all the work she’s putting in now will result in a family that she can be very proud of. I’ll wink and tell her in ten years she will be in those middle years before they all leave the house, but are somewhat independent, that she won’t even have to carry the groceries into the house because the kids will do it. I’ll encourage her to take care of herself and survive these early years because a new phase will be there soon enough.
Each day I watch my children grow a little bit stronger and wiser and I watch them test their wings as they prepare to leave our nest. I am incredibly proud of the adults that they are growing into, and I am certain that I am going to miss these days.