When my son was four months old, I was a nervous wreck. Don't get me wrong, he was my first child, a ridiculously easy baby, placid and content for the most part, a late walker, an early talker, and very responsive and cuddly. Pushing him down the road in his little stroller one morning, an elderly woman stopped me and my friend who was pushing a similarly aged babe, also her first, a little redheaded girl with a speedy smile and a great laugh. "These are the best moments of your lives, girls," she'd said, "just enjoy it."
Of course I thought at the time, that this woman was bonkers. I was sleep deprived and overweight, in my opinion. My friend and I were not "enjoying" our walk, per se, we were frantically walking and talking and drinking coffee in the hopes that our bodies would resume to some sort of shape even vaguely resembling what they'd been pre-baby.
But then my second son was born, I lost all the "baby weight" and subsequently gained it back, I was divorced, remarried, sold and bought a home, moved across the country, changed jobs four times, and my older "baby" is now heading into the seventh grade, my younger going into fifth, and all I can think of is: "dang, that woman was right."
There may be nothing to do about this conundrum. Just as the expression "Youth is wasted on the young" implies that while you are at your most lithe and energetic you are fretting about so many things, so too does parenting and motherhood in particular take on a particular bizarre quality as you hold and nurture your tiny infant, bonding in a way you bond with your own internal organs, yet still longing almost every moment for a break, a nap, a day off from this intensity. While your children are small you worry so much about doing it right. You worry about their health and their emotions. You worry about money and time. You worry about your relationship or lack thereof. You worry about your identity now that you're a mom, your career, your looks, your friendships.
And then, just as if a switch is turned on, your children are not really young anymore, they're pre-adolescents, then teenagers, then adults, and the rosy glow of motherhood, new, precious motherhood, is over forever.
And while it happens to everyone who raises children, it's still shocking and bittersweet. We want to give our children strong roots and wings to fly away - all parents want to know their children are strong enough physically, intellectually and emotionally to make it on their own. Yet those moments in the stroller, on long walks in the sunlight, haunt every parent as they watch their sons and daughters apply to jobs and schools, get their driver's license or have their first date. Just when we think we might possibly be getting the hang of this parenting thing they are ready, like REALLY ready, to leave us, maybe for good. And we watch them go with so much love our heads spinning and our hands still curled in the shape of the handle of the stroller, the double stroller, the car seat handle, the shaky toy we shook for them, our arms aching still from cradling them through the night.
It just goes too fast.
Aimee Boyle is a regular contributor to EmpowHER.
Edited by Jody Smith