This article written by T-Ann Pierce was originally featured on one of our favorite sites: YourTango.
It seems so obvious, but too many moms learn it too late.
When our kids were toddlers and even into grade school, I'd find that at night, when the room was dark, I could squint my eyes, stare at them sleeping in their beds and see them as babies. I could almost feel their soft baby's breath on my neck and their warm bodies in my arms.
I could visualize their soft, round tummies and their footed pajamas. There they were, big kids, but with a little darkness and just a bit of squinting, I could still envision those babies of mine. Want parenting advice? Love those moments while they last, because things change.
Those small, pudgy babies disappeared. I now step over piles of smelly shoes, textbooks and sports equipment by the back door. We no longer worry about the cost of diapers and braces; instead, we lie awake worrying about multiple years with three kids in college. And, because we never successfully mastered the family planning thing, we have a fourth child bringing up the rear.
In the early years of our marriage, when the kids were small, my husband and I would limp upstairs, utterly exhausted, to put them to bed. We read the same favorite books over and over until we feared for our mental health. I'm pretty certain that fourteen or fifteen years of reading Cars! Cars! Cars! killed more brain cells than any bad decision I made during my youth.
Time is smooth and seamless. Each day spent with our young family was noisy and chaotic. Like a thief in the night, change was silent: babies became toddlers and toddlers became big kids. Routines changed. Preferences evolved. How could I have known one night as I placed The Runaway Bunny back onto the shelf, I would never be asked to read it again?
Well over a decade of reading this tattered book, and yet when I placed it alongside the other books on the shelf it was without thought or notice, without ceremony. This old, well-loved friend was literally shelved. How could I have known the simple act of putting away a book was profound?
No doubt, as I placed the book back on the shelf, my mind had wandered to more pressing issues like laundry, signing permission slips or making doctor appointments. I turned out the light and slipped out of the room, completely unaware it was the end of an era. In that exceedingly ordinary and seemingly insignificant moment, part of their childhood — and my mothering — was over.
Recently, I observed all four of the kids in the kitchen. I watched them in a way I hadn't before. I noticed how they interacted. There was banter and music and laughter. They discussed politics and parties. Someone was in a headlock, because, well, someone is always in a headlock. (Will I mourn the passing of "the last headlock"?) Still, I listened to the witty and intelligent conversations they were sharing.
In that moment, I realized I no longer wanted to squint to envision the babies I used to hold. I discovered something more magical and more joyful than seeing babies in big kids. In the full light of day, right there in our kitchen, I took in an amazing sight.
Our kids were bright, funny, articulate, and passionate young adults. They had remarkable taste in music, engaging friends, and educated opinions. They were well-traveled and kind. They shared my off-color sense of humor and spoke languages I hardly knew existed when I was young.
Year after year of profoundly insignificant moments brought me to that moment. My role with our older children has been downgraded from "their everything" to "consultant." Equal parts guiding, encouraging and mostly trying to keep out of the way.
Those babies I once so fiercely guarded were now ready to launch, the world and their passions crystallizing before them.
And through watery eyes, I liked what I saw.
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