I walked my youngest son into preschool this morning, his little hand comfortably inside of mine. When we got to the landing between the two stairwells, I hugged him close as I have each morning since he started preschool in September.
“I love you, buddy.”
“I love you more,” he said, “a million, trillion, billion more.”
I looked down at his little face … his rosy cheeks … his mouth smiling full of tiny teeth … his big brown eyes staring back at me. And I could not help but notice that there was a little boy standing where my baby used to be.
As I walked back to the car, the warm sun on my face reminded me that the school year is winding down. This boy of mine will graduate from preschool in less than two weeks, and he will be off to Kindergarten in the fall.
With my oldest son wrapping up the first grade this year, I am acutely aware of how quickly time passes and how fast they grow. Before long, my youngest, too, will have a mouthful of holes where big teeth will soon crowd his gums, a big boy hairstyle, and an affinity for Nike sneakers.
This image in my head of my baby all grown up nearly took my breath away. The past four and one half years began to flash through my mind. But, as it did, I realized that I could not remember the last time I changed his diaper. At the time, it felt like I would be changing diapers forever, but now the memory is so distant that it seems like a lifetime ago.
And, then, I realized that I honestly cannot remember his first word. It feels like he has always talked. I am sure that it simply got lost somewhere in the chaos of having two small children, and I must have jotted it down in his baby book, but oh, how I want to remember the moment. I want to remember the look on his face, on our face, the feeling of pride, the joy, the happiness, and the encouragement to keep going. I cannot remember the sight of him taking his first steps, or the joy of seeing his first smile, or hearing his first laugh, or of him singing his first song.
Where has the time gone? Where have I been?
And, yet, I have been there. I have been there every step of the way, at every milestone. I have made an effort to be present … to be aware. I have recognized the importance of being completely in every moment as often as possible. I have held on to the bittersweet joy of parenting tightly with both hands, and yet, I cannot remember. My sons have literally grown before my eyes with each passing moment. Our lives and roles have constantly shifted.
We are not as we once were.
But as we are is pretty great, too.
I love watching my boys grow and learn … from learning to read, to riding a bicycle, to telling jokes that are actually funny, to being able to watch and appreciate some of my favorite childhood movies with me now. I love that they have evolved into my little buddies who can chat about the world and their hopes and dreams with me. I love that our hikes have gotten longer and that I can recognize what they are drawing without them telling me.
And, I love how I have evolved too. I love that I am more relaxed … a little less intense … … a little less need for strict adherence to our schedule and routine …. I love that I worry less, and that if we want to stop for ice cream after the park before we have had dinner sometimes, that we just do that now. Or that I let my youngest son stay in my bed every single night after he comes in, even though I never allowed my oldest to.
I love that after a stressful day, when the world has been unkind, that home is always where I want to be. Even when it is hard. Even when I feel like pulling my hair out. Even on the worst days.
I love that this family that I have created, has in many ways, created me.
I love the years that have molded all of us … the memories of days gone by.
But I also love the richness of our evolution as individuals and together as a family.
And so, with each moment that I long to live again or live for a little longer, I also yearn to experience what will be … all that has yet to come. And, while I may hold on to every last for as long as I possibly can, I am also embracing every new first.
For, we are not as we once were.
But as we are is pretty great, too.
And, I can only imagine, that the best is yet to be.