If I could go back to when my babies were little, I wouldn't. Because then I would miss my 3-year-old's endless questions about superheroes (Does Batman wear underwear? Does Spider-Man like broccoli? Does Super Man share with his brother? Yes, yes, definitely yes), and my 18-month-old's adorable giggles when I "find" him hiding under a blanket over and over and over again.
Here's the thing about motherhood: it's not all perfect, but I wouldn't want to miss a single second of it. And despite what you might think — or might have been told — you won't long for the newborn, tiny baby stage often because you will be too busy enjoying each new thing that your little ones learn every day.
For me, being a mom started with two pink lines. Seeing that first positive pregnancy test after seven months of trying to conceive was simply amazing. And from that moment, I started looking ahead. When will morning sickness end? When will I feel that first kick? When will I have a cute bump? When will I get to meet my baby?
But once your adorably tiny baby is finally born, it feels like you just want time to slow down — and it doesn't help that well-meaning friends and family are constantly offering advice about making these moments last. (I often heard variations of: enjoy this now because pretty soon you'll be sending your 8-pound, 6-ounce baby off to college and wishing he was waking you up all night to be rocked and fed.)
When I became a mom, I knew the baby stage wouldn't last forever, but I also wondered why people never talked about the pure joy that I would experience when one of my sons reached their firsts — a first latch, first smile, first-pee-on-my-husband-during-a-middle-of-the-night diaper change. I knew I was supposed to be sad looking at old baby clothes, but instead, I was so excited to shop for the next size up and see their chunky little thighs go from onesies to mini jean shorts.
While it may be heartbreaking to watch this impossibly tiny human grow up, it's just as equally exciting. No one ever told me that being a mom meant being the world's biggest cheerleader for your own kids. Helping them roll over, take a first bite, draw a straight line. It's little bursts of pride you feel inside every time your kid does something miraculous, like when they say "I love you, Mama" or they go potty on the toilet instead of in their diapers.
As someone with two toddlers, I know that I still have so much to look forward to. I personally can't wait for my oldest to stay in his bed at night instead of falling asleep at the door and for my youngest to stop throwing his food on the ground during every meal.
But I also know how great life is right now. If they are too young to enjoy a trip to the zoo, take them anyway. You might be surprised by how much they actually enjoy (and you can always take them again when they're older). If you are sad about them outgrowing their baby clothes, then buy the cutest new ones you can find the next time your favorite store has a sale. When you start to feel down about something they are no longer doing, or anxiously waiting for them to grow up just a little bit more, so you can do something new, then try to find ways to get excited about this stage in their lives right now.
For me, that was putting away the baby books and buying preschool workbooks instead. It was a new way to interact with my toddler, while still getting that excitement that comes from doing something together. It was taking my little guys to the library, even though they were too young to pick out books themselves. And it was finding ways to stay close to them and hold them tight no matter what. For example, both of my big toddlers still love cuddling with me, even though it's mostly while we watch Disney movies in the living room together instead of during marathon breastfeeding sessions in the middle of the night.
In the future, I'm excited for my kids to go to school, maybe take taekwondo or soccer classes, discover the joys of reading, and find hobbies, interests, and adventures of their own. I don't know if they will go to college or join the military or become entrepreneurs, but I do know that I will love watching them and cheering them on every step of the way. And the way I saw my mom smile through the tears when my older brother joined the Navy, or when I graduated college, or when my younger siblings reached new milestones in their young adult lives, I know she feels it, too.
For the record, I do take endless pictures, and yes, I have been known to watch old videos and cry after my kids have gone to bed. I am human, after all! But I know now that being a mom isn't just about looking to the past and wishing for size 0 diapers and endless cuddles once again — it's about enjoying the present with one eye on the future, knowing that your love will just continue to grow and your cheers will just keep getting louder.
For now, I'm going to smile as I let them run through the sprinkler one more time, read one more story, and sing one more song, knowing that this is just the beginning. I have a lifetime of joy left, and I'm not going to waste a minute of it living in the past.