Wednesday, August 30, 2017

They Were Right

Today's post should have gone live on Monday, the scheduled first day of school, but because of Hurricane Harvey the kids didn't start school until Tuesday. Today's post is also an edited and updated version of a post I shared four years ago, on Will's first day of first grade.

During Will and Hallie's baby and toddler years, I found the commonly uttered phrase "enjoy every moment...they grow up so fast" both frustrating and disheartening.

You've been there, right? 

It's 10am. You've been awake for five hours, and in that time you've fed your children three times, been thrown up on three times, cleaned smashed banana out of the cat's fur, changed four diapers, wiped pee up off the playroom floor, rescued a Power Ranger action figure from the toilet, unclogged the toilet, and mopped up the flooded bathroom. You haven't eaten, showered, gotten dressed, or even brushed your teeth. 

How many of those moments did you enjoy?

Telling parents - especially new parents, whose days feel like weeks and whose nights require superhuman strength to endure - to "enjoy every moment" often comes across, no matter how well-intentioned, as cruel. These new moms and dads love their babies tremendously, but they simply aren't enjoying every moment.

And telling new parents that time goes by so quickly? Well, that line sounds like a great big lie, because for them, time isn't going by so quickly. If they're anything like me when I had an infant at home, they're wondering how it's possible that their (according to the calendar) five-month-old won't head off to kindergarten this fall because it feels like they've been caring for that baby for five years.

Last Monday I took care of my friend's nearly two-year-old son for an entire day. I see sweet Calvin and he spends time with Will and Hallie frequently, but it wasn't until I watched him play side-by-side with Will and Hallie for the better part of 12 hours that I realized just how big - how independent - my kids have become.

Holy smokes...they DO grow up so fast. It DOES go by so quickly.

Yesterday Will started fifth grade. FIFTH GRADE. (And he's taking sixth grade math. Someone hold me.) He's almost eleven years old and has left elementary school behind. Yesterday Hallie started third grade. THIRD GRADE. My BABY, an "upperclassman" third grader?! This is all quite difficult to wrap my head around, considering that just yesterday I was angry at the woman at the farmers market who played with six-month-old Will's curls and exclaimed, "what a big boy! They grow up so fast". And the day before that, I cried in the car on the way home after a woman at the mall told me, as I walked past her pushing two-week-old Will in the stroller, to enjoy every moment.

Where am I going with this? To be honest, I don't really know.

So here's what I do know. I know that telling parents - of children of any age - to enjoy every moment often makes them feel worse rather than better. I know that telling new parents that time goes by so quickly comes off as a cliche or even a lie. And I know that while the minutes feel like hours, the hours like days, and the days like weeks when those babies are teeny tiny, at some point the clock speeds up and you can never slow it back down.

I still don't enjoy every moment, but yesterday morning, as I sent Will off to fifth grade and Hallie off to third grade, I was forced to acknowledge that they DO grow up so fast. That it DOES go by quickly.

To all of the kiddos starting or heading back to school, good luck. To all of the teachers guiding our children's academic, social, and emotional learning, thank you for giving so much of yourselves to your job. And to all of the parents whose hearts are bursting with love and fear and pride all at the same time, I feel you.
Will's first day of school.
Hallie's first day of school.

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