It’s an idea that will never go away: “Enjoy your kids now, because they grow up too fast.” Everyone has heard this phrase, or a similar one, and every parent has repeated it at some time or another, probably multiple times. We hear it throughout the years and in various forms.
“Enjoy the baby stages, because they grow up so fast.”
“Enjoy having them at home because before you know it they’ll be in school.”
“Enjoy them while they’re still young because soon they’ll grow up and won’t want anything to do with you.”
“Enjoy them while they’re still around because before you know it they’ll be out on their own and you’ll never see them anymore.”
We know it’s all true, deep down, but we also tend to ignore it because at the time we feel like that moment will never come. When your child is a squalling infant you feel like you’ll be stuck in the helpless baby stage forever. When you’re trying to get them to eat decent food and learn to go potty you feel like you’re going to be chasing them around with a fork and a clean diaper until your hair goes gray. And when times are good, when you’re cuddling on the couch with them, or helping them learn something new, or exclaiming over the beautiful picture they made for you, you can’t help but feel that your kid is going to be like this – exactly like this – for the rest of time.
As a parent, I’m as guilty of this as anyone, but as a parent who travels out West I’ve found that I see the changes that time brings a little more clearly than some others may. I’m away from my daughter for two weeks at a time, so I’ll actually notice things like how her hair has grown and chubby belly has begun to thin out. I spend half of every month on the other side of the country, so it’s very evident to me when her demeanor shifts or she picks up some new habits or attitudes. I see her changing before my eyes, and though I love watching what she is growing into, the view can sometimes be a little sad.
This summer past, before I was laid off, I’d been working out West for a full year. Almost every night I would call home on Skype so I could talk to the baby and let her know that mama was still around. She would get excited to see me, run around the room like a crazy person, try to show me all of her toys as though I’d managed to forget they existed whileI was gone, and then when it was time for me to say good-bye, she would get upset. Not all the time, but most times. She would whine and cry and hide her face and refuse to say good-bye or blow me a kiss. Almost every night. She didn’t want mama to leave.
Seven months have passed since my last Skype call like that, and things have changed dramatically. Now my daughter sits and talks to me, tells me about her shows and what she ate and about how she helped daddy shovel snow today. She’s pleasant and adorable and talkative. And then after twenty minutes or so she looks at her father and tells him that she wants to say good-bye. He tells her to go ahead and she waves at me, and we blow each other kisses, and she says good-bye and smiles at me while I hang up. It’s sweet, and cute as a button, and just a little sad.
I’m not being selfish; I don’t want her to be sad and crying when it’s time for me to go. But it hurts, just that little bit deep down in my heart, to know that she’s grown up enough that it doesn’t bother her at all that I’m not there with her, that she’s perfectly happy to wave and say good-bye and go about her busines without me. It’s a good thing – a very good thing – that my daughter has grown mature and independent enough to be okay with mommy going away for work, but it seems that mommy hasn’t grown mature and independent enough to deal with that big-girl attitude just yet.
Enjoy your kids, no matter what stage of life they are in, because before you know it they’ll have moved on to the next stage and everything will have changed again.