Dear Me 20 Years From Now,
I wonder if you’ve become one of those women who briefly lingers around, a safe distance behind, young moms carting their babies and toddlers through the grocery store with that far-off look in your eyes. If you gently smile at the mom when she looks up and catches your glance, obviously frazzled by how challenging taking 2 kids grocery shopping is, as if to tell her it’s going to be okay. If you look at her and miss that time, want so badly to trade 5 minutes of the independence you have now that your kids are much older so that you can rest a toddler’s head on your shoulder, or buckle a baby in their car seat, mindful not to pinch any belly chub in the harness.
I have a feeling that you might be, and there are some things I want you to know, some things I’m willing you to remember.
I want you to remember that they were the hardest thing you’d ever done. They challenged you, and they kept you up at night. They pushed your buttons, and they were never, ever quiet… unless they were in trouble. I want you to remember that you loved them the hardest you’ve ever loved anything, from day one, and every day after that.
I want you to know that you were completely overwhelmed nearly all the time. The thought of taking them anywhere by yourself made you want to hide in bed all day. You were overwhelmed by the responsibility. You had NO clue what you were doing. You were overwhelmed by how much they trusted you and how much they needed you. You were overwhelmed by how much you needed and loved them.
I want you to remember how it felt to lay side by side next to your 4-year-old before he drifted off to sleep. How you talked face to face, nose to nose, about his day. How you told him you were excited to see how much he would grow by the morning, and how in the morning you’d lay in bed next to him and stretch his arms and legs out, exclaiming, “LOOK HOW MUCH YOU GREW LAST NIGHT!” How that put the biggest smile on his face.
I want you to remember what it felt like to hold your 18 month old on your lap, wrapping your arms around her and laying them on her bulging tummy. How the back of her head and the handful of baby curls at the nape of her neck felt and smelled when you rested your head atop hers.
I want you to know that you were acutely aware of how fast they were growing. Even though many days would pass in the blink of an eye, there would always be a moment when your world would snap to a halt, and you would look at them while they were doing something mundane and normal, and you would be painfully conscious that they were no longer the size they were last week, and that they would never be the size they are at that moment again.
I want you to know that you went to bed every night with one simple wish for the next day. To just do better.
Even though you were tired and challenged, exasperated and overwhelmed, you knew then that you would miss these days…most of them, at least. It was a truth that was hard to live with, and most of the time you ignored it because there was nothing you could do about the passing of time. If you spent your days mourning the ones that had gone by, you’d miss out on the days you were living in.
You knew you were on a light rail, moving at speeds you couldn’t comprehend. You had no control over the ride that brought you to where you are today, but believe me when I say you searched so very hard to find the emergency brake.
Please know, please remember that you tried to savor that time. Be at peace, knowing you spent late afternoons curled up with them on the couch, that sometimes you just sat and watched them move and run, that occasionally you took inventory of all the things they’d learned in the last week, and that you appreciated your time with them the best you knew how. Know that despite your very best efforts, there was no way to freeze time.
I promise you, you tried.