To The Mama Looking Ahead, And The One Looking Behind
By Tabatha McIntyre
“The days are long but the years are short.” You have heard this little nugget of truth before, right?
Someone probably said it to you around the same time I heard it, when your babes are small and you are physically tired, emotionally wrung out, and mentally understimulated from watching Baby Einstein too many times. I tried my best to take it to heart, I really did, but when you are in the throes of diapers and nap schedules and tantrums, those things often don’t really have a place to land.
I have this strong tendency to always be waiting for the next thing to happen. During my pregnancies I could not wait to hold my child, so much so that I missed the beauty and experience of staying in the moment when the miracle of life was growing inside of me. All I could focus on was being through the pregnancy to having my baby. Then, when they were newborns, I wanted them to be sitting up, sleeping through the night, and eating solid food. I think I had a countdown to when my oldest was 4 months so I could finally introduce rice cereal. When they were toddlers, I could not wait until they were potty trained and dressing themselves and starting school. I dreamed of when I would finally have some “me time” after 7 years of staying at home with them.
The first day I watched them both walk into school without me, I cried all the way home, sat on the couch and thought “now what?” A few months later, after I started homeschooling them, it took me no time at all to get restless. Restless, paired with strong convictions on how they should grow up, what they should be exposed to, and what values they needed to learn. I wanted to be the one to teach them what integrity, honesty, compassion and forgiveness were. I wanted to be there to witness every time truth, beauty and goodness revealed itself to them. Yet, I still looked ahead. I wanted them to be old enough to make their lunches and their beds without being told. I could not wait until I didn’t have to answer “Why?” anymore, or watch Frozen one more gosh darn time. I looked forward to long walks around the neighborhood and deep, meaningful conversations around the dinner table and game nights with games that didn’t have cartoon characters on the box.
I wanted something different for my kids and thought I could create a future for them that was far better than I had. I religiously cooked nutritious meals every night, played soft music and set the table with flowers and candles thinking they would grow up with something a little extra special. That I would somehow love them well enough to shield them from the harshness of the world. That I would be their best friend and their growing up would never mean growing apart. I constantly looked around at our world and felt overwhelmed by the darkness. I wanted to instill in them a love for God, for others and for themselves. I wanted them to view home as their safe haven. I was so worried about them being good adults that I missed out on many moments of them just being kids. I would get to the next growth staircase and immediately miss the one a few steps back.
Those kids are now teenagers, in “real school” and this is one stage I was not necessarily hungry to get to. It’s funny, as soon as you realize you want time to slow down, it starts to speed up. As soon as you start to miss the way they cling, they start to pull away. Those babes, whose entire world revolved around “mommy”, now just call me mom. You never realize when the last time you will hear them calling you mommy will be. When the last tuck in will be. The last time they need help cutting their chicken.
I have found myself not wanting to look into the future anymore, but longingly remembering the past. I get sucked into the pull of missing what once was; what once I wanted to hurry along. I would give anything to go back and just appreciate it, savor it, and be fully present.
That is the key to it all is it not? Staying in the NOW. Fear, regret, longing cannot really exist in the present.
It is a constant struggle for me to stay in the precious moment of now, but I look back at that young mom, trying so hard. It was 15 years ago and I wish I could really, truly get through to her. The days are long, which is a gift, and the years are short, so spend every chance you can just being thankful. I do miss the snuggles, the games of hide and seek, the bedtime stories. But in this season, when they happen to be home, which is increasingly less and less, I am thankful for the deep conversations, long walks and epic game nights. I can have a really solid pity party when I think about how little time I have left with them under our roof, so I am preaching to the choir on this, but I commit again and again to just cherish the moments as they come. I don’t want to look too long backwards or too far ahead into the future because I will miss it.
To quote Aerosmith, “and I don’t wanna miss a thing.”
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