I met a woman at a dinner party this summer and the topic of our children inevitably came up. She has two sons in college. I have two sons not yet in pre-school. As the wine flowed more freely, our trivial small talk took on a more somber tone. She admitted to me she just experienced one of the saddest moments of her life: dropping her son off at college. That drive home – alone – symbolized the end of a phase in her life. She wasn’t ready. Eighteen years wasn’t long enough. I am in a very different phase of Motherhood: The Beginning. However, even the thought of my son getting on a school bus in a couple years brings an overpowering feeling of sadness and emptiness. Because even that symbolizes the end of a chapter.
As three year olds have been known to do, when my son finds a movie he likes, he insists on watching it over and over (and over). As much as I try to ignore it, I end up reciting it word for word before its run is over. For the past few months, Toy Story 3 has been his movie of choice. This is the one where the little boy, Andy, is all grown up and goes off to college. There is a scene where Andy’s mom walks into his emptied out room and sighs – a deep sigh, heavy with sadness and reality. And every time I see it (yes, even the 247th time), my heart aches for this poor little cartoon Mama.
I feel ya, Andy’s Mom. There are moments with my boys when I find myself pleading with Time: please slow down, I’m not ready for this to be over. I take a mental snapshot and order myself to remember. “Remember this.” Remember the way his tiny hand feels in yours, the softness of his cheek, those chubby little feet, the look of his pursed lips, the weight of his head on your chest, the smell of his sweet breath. Remember this.
With our insanely hectic lives, it’s not always easy to “appreciate each moment”. (And let’s be honest, not all moments are worth appreciating!) But don’t wish time away either, even on those rough days. Every stage of Motherhood is fleeting. On those (not so rare) occasions when the craziness of everyday life becomes overbearing and I want to run away, I think back to my dinner party conversation. One day it will be my turn to take that lonely drive away from my son’s college and go home to a vacant little boy’s room. One day I’ll exhale the breath of emptiness like little cartoon Mama. But not today. Today my 3 year old is adamant that he’s going to marry me when he “gets big” and my 7 month old’s face lights up every time he sees me. Today I can breathe in the smell of their soft baby skin and savor the feeling of those little arms around my neck. Today I can bask in each of those endearing moments that are there, then flicker, fade and dissolve into the Past. I will continue to take those mental snapshots, burn them into my memory, lock them away. And every day, every minute, remind myself just how very precious time is.