Tell Me How Beautiful It Is To Watch Them Fly

I’m holding 3 tiny hands, alternating walking with sometimes sprinting and rare moments of complete stillness.

On a crooked road, jagged with rocks, hazardous with patches of fog and entire stretches of darkness.

We are headed toward a cliff.

And with each step, I tell myself, “Enjoy this. Try to enjoy this. They said to enjoy this.”

“It doesn’t get better than this.”

Every chance I can, I stop to look at these 3, the ones the tiny hands belong to. I try to soak it in. I try to take snapshots with my mind. I prolifically fire off snapshots with my camera. I document. I save. I run my finger over the top of their nose and down to the tip of their lip as they sleep, trying to memorize their soft silhouette.

I get frustrated, trying to keep them on this crooked road. I lose my cool. I hide in bathrooms. I scream. At them. I feel guilty. That cliff gets closer.

“Enjoy this.”

I breathe, and I regroup. I forgive myself and we are carried on, against our will somedays, closer to the cliff’s edge.

I dread the cliff’s edge, when I’ll be forced to let go of those 3 tiny hands.

*******

This is the best way I can describe how motherhood feels to me most days.

The feeling is magnified now that I have a little chunk of baby love escorting me everywhere I go. He is that fleeting moment in time. He represents everything that slips away so fast.

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Parents, grandparents, great-grandparents have all stopped me to tell me how precious he is. To ask for the pleasure of touching his feet, rubbing his cheek, taking him in in this sliver-of-a-piece-of-a-moment-in-time.

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“Enjoy this time. It goes so fast,” they say. And I know, truly, that each and every one of them has meant well. I know that as they say that, they are transported back to that time they were also walking toward their own cliff, holding other tiny hands that once relied on them for everything.

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Sometimes these comments from parents of older children can cause parents of younger children and babies guilt, annoyance, and make us feel pressured despite their intentions. ARE WE NOT ENJOYING THIS ENOUGH?

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How, how, how do we become better at that? What does Pinterest say? Maybe we can make another scrapbook, take more pictures, more videos, stop yelling. Oh God, we should stop yelling completely, shouldn’t we? We are not enjoying this enough because sleep deprivation and poop and tantrums are not things people generally enjoy. But maybe we should? 

Maybe if we just tried to enjoy things more, the walk toward the cliff would take longer… we won’t have to let go of those tiny hands so soon.

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Are we monsters for not enjoying all of this? No. And I don’t think most of the people who remind us to “enjoy this time” mean to imply that.

This time- the time we are responsible for holding tiny hands- does go fast. This much I know, after feeling that punch of disbelief in the gut while walking my oldest into his kindergarten classroom this year.

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So when people tell me, “Enjoy this time. It goes so fast,” I try to remember that is a truth. And while SUPER annoying to hear when I’m wrestling a 2 year old into a bathroom stall and bribing her to poop on a potty, it’s a reminder I try to take to heart, as Glennon from Momastery puts it, when Kairos time allows.

Then there’s Kairos time. Kairos is God’s time. It’s time outside of time. It’s metaphysical time. Kairos is those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day, and I cherish them. – “Don’t Carpe Diem” Momastery.com

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The problem with these well-meaning reminders is that they instill a sense of dread in me. When this time is gone, and we get to the edge of the cliff and I have to let go, is the best of it really behind me? What happens at the edge of that cliff?

They tell me to enjoy this walk, they don’t tell me what to do when it’s over.

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I need to hear that this walk can be lovely. And that this walk can be hard. Reminders to try to enjoy it, to try to take it in, to consciously stop sprinting, are good to hear from time to time.

But I also need to hear that my life isn’t over when we get to the edge of the cliff. Somedays it feels like when we arrive there, and I let go of those tiny hands, I’m going to fall and have only the moments I managed to cherish to cushion me.

So remind me to “enjoy this time,” and that the day I let go of them will be here all too soon. But then?

Tell me how beautiful it is to watch them fly.

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  • Abbey - Oh Jill….this is so beautifully written! You captured everything…everything I feel with the 3 little hands I hold. So many mamas can relate. I loved all of this!ReplyCancel

  • Heather - As I drove my first born to orientation at her selected college, I had that same feeling- like we were driving toward a cliff, in the dark, uncontrollably speeding toward it. I knew that she would probably soar, my brave little girl who bungee-jumped as I watched in awe of her. But it left me terrified. That same girl is now off in Ireland, so far away from me- this little girl who wouldn’t leave my side for so many years. It is beautiful watching them fly, but it does hurt like hell. So I am glad I have my surprise 4th baby now to cuddle and love as I watch the rest of my children fly away.ReplyCancel

  • Andrea - THIS! Yes, exactly this. (There is this song we play to our kids from Putumayo Animal Playground and it says:
    I love you little baby, but
    I’ve got to let you go
    You’ve taken and you’ve taken
    Now you’ve stopped to grow
    I’ll watch over you as you fly, fly, fly,
    But little baby, I can’t be your sky

    And I always say: “You ain’t going nowhere, baby. You’re mine.” But they are not.

    Which brings me to:
    On Children
    Kahlil Gibran

    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them,
    but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    Sorry, long…but you said it beautifully and so right and I want you to know others know how you feel, too.)

    You are the bows from which your children
    as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might
    that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    so He loves also the bow that is stable.ReplyCancel

  • Monica Barnes - When it’s over you get grandkids and start a whole new chapter and all new memories.ReplyCancel

  • Mandey Ejiasi - Beautiful. ReplyCancel

  • Katrina Tan - I get what you mean. I don’t wanna think of the time when he lets go of me, coz I know I’ll never let go.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda Vogt - Jill, your blog is AMAZING. A friend of mine turned me on to you years ago and I can’t help but read everything you post. Especially in the beginning and after having your first child the anxiety you felt. I too felt anxious and paranoid after having my daughter (who is now 7 1/2 yrs. old). I never considered postpartum depression because I wasn’t sad and crying all the time, and I’m glad I wasn’t the only one! So keep writing girl, you are an inspiration =)ReplyCancel

  • Kristin VanderHey Shaw - Such a beautiful post, Jill! You outdid yourself here. And remember what you’ll tell yourself in 20 years: you loved them well. You’re a great mom.ReplyCancel

  • Becky Bruno Ayres - It’s never over. We get to watch them and be for them every step of the way as they make friends, fall in love, choose careers, be parents of their own, make mistakes. Then, hopefully we will start a new special relationship with our children as both being parents and get sweet little grandbabies!ReplyCancel

  • Gina DiPalermo Ahlemeyer - This is beautiful. And so much of what I’ve been feeling and thinking lately. Thank you. ReplyCancel

  • Naomi Pagano Colquitt - I love you, I love this! I’m feeling exactly the same way with number 3 in the way! It’s brutal love and fear, you so eloquently put into words! Thank you! ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - It made me tear up. I feel like this-just like this every day. How can I be better? Am I not enjoying this enough? It’s so hard when they are little, but we can only hope our decisions are the right ones and we can watch them soar.ReplyCancel

  • Jess Z. - I love this. It’s exactly how I feel right now in this stage.ReplyCancel

  • DrJessica - Wonderful, Jill. So glad you wrote this. And, perhaps more importantly, what are those rad boots you’re wearing at the pumpkin patch?!? xoReplyCancel

  • Erin - This was beautiful, I’m in tears. Thank you for sharing and for doing such a good job of putting into words what we are all feeling as we raise these precious little children of ours!ReplyCancel

  • Tamara M. - perfect.ReplyCancel

  • Angie - This is so good!ReplyCancel

  • Kami - Oh, Jill. Thank you for the tears at 2am. No, no. Thank you for the complete sob fest. Seriously. Beautifully written post.ReplyCancel

  • Katie - Tell me about it. My baby turned one today and I’ve spent the last 24 hours alternating between nausea, euphoria, and ugly crying.

    What happens after the cliff? Grandkids! And from what my mom tells me, those are way better than actual kids.ReplyCancel

  • Lauren Gannon Evans - I have an almost three year old, and a 4 month old. These are my thoughts every day – when my three year old sings songs only he knows the words to and as my 4 month old holds my hand while I nurse her to sleep. Am I currently living the best moments of my life?ReplyCancel

  • Bev - Oh god. This ripped me to shreds this morning. Great post. Seriously great.ReplyCancel

  • Tracy Tureson - I remember hearing a quote that goes something like this. “The days are long but the years are short”. That is so true when kids are little, maybe its hitting 40 last year, maybe its because I have an 8 year old and an 18 year old senior. But I miss those 2 am feedings, cuddle time alone with a baby. It hit me when my daughter was 2 and was sick needing to cuddle at 2 am how much I missed that quiet still time. Or now that she’s in 3rd grade and doesn’t share my bed anymore after sharing my bed from 3.5 on till school started. Even temper tantrums make me laugh now because I know soon enough those will be completely gone – and that works with tantrums from other kids too. I’ve reached that zen place where I can shut the world out and focus on the tantrum – who cares what else is going on the world will still be turning homework due dinner to be made. Focusing on the here and now has become very important to me….. maybe its time for that 3 kid… or should I wait 5 years and if history repeats itself (which I hope it doesn’t) my son will be a dad. That really puts things into perspective for me. Now going from calc to multiplication facts at the drop of a pin.. I’m still working on being happy for that as my mind explodes. ReplyCancel

  • Courtney Helms - You killed me with that last line. I have a very similar photo of my 3.5 year old, flying, from our latest pro session. I try to remember that watching him fly is part of the joy, but it’s so hard to let go!ReplyCancel

  • Catherine Lloyd-Evans - I reckon most parents/grandparents would tell you that the cliff never actually arrives! My poor parents-in-law often say, oh we worry about our lot more now than we ever did when they were little! There’s no cliff. I don’t think you ever let go. It’s fine to be a grump. Like you say, poos on carpets are not fun; homework tantrums and melodrama aren’t fun; and although I’m not there yet I’m pretty sure sitting on a sofa stiffly at 10pm waiting for a teenager to come through the door is not fun – a lot of it, is not fun. And when most of it is done, you get to do all the things on your AK list – After Kids!ReplyCancel

  • Purplemum - Oh this is an absolutely beautiful post and so what I needed to hear. Mine are 2,4, and 6 and I really do worry a lot about what happens next, whether the best bit is this and then it’s all downhill. Watching them fly sounds equally wonderful, thanks.ReplyCancel

  • Hattie Franks - It’s all about Love. You love them and they love you when they are young and that feels so good. Time passes, but then sometimes God provides Grandchildren. That feels really good too.ReplyCancel

  • Betsy - WONDERFUL. Thank you so much for writing this.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Bennett Tunks - I have been having a horrible time with this and I’m not even done having kids yet. I see how quickly time flies with my 5 month old and it kills me. How can I just Kern to live in the moment so it stops affecting the time I have now? ReplyCancel

  • Jessica McCurry Dobek - This is your best post ever. ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly - such a tough night/day, really needed this. my 4.5 month old twins started teething. i just want to cry, but don’t want to worry my 4yr old 🙁 i really want time to hurry up a little, at least to tonight when i have my next chance for sleep.ReplyCancel

  • Sara Cavallino Ruppel - I love your blog! And you are such a beautiful woman but I don’t see many true smiling pictures of you – lets see some!! Thank you for sharing this post, I often have this dreed of my little ones. Am I enjoying this moment enough? Will I always remember when they were this little? I should be taking more pictures but then I’m not in the moment! Then I panick.. I have to tell myself I am doing the best I can and I love my children and look forward to every new moment with them.ReplyCancel

  • Mélanie Mercier - This is one of my favorite post… Thank you for the beautiful reminder, because it is needed but worded in a way that reminds us to take all of those comments meant so kindly for what they are.ReplyCancel

  • On Growing Up | Nurse with a Purse - […] at Baby Rabies wrote an amazing post a few months ago talking about this exact topic – and with much more […]ReplyCancel

  • Lately... Fall 2013 - Designing Delicious Adventures - […] reflecting on motherhood after reading these 2 articles: Tell Me How Beautiful It Is To Watch Them Fly and I Became a Mother, and Died to […]ReplyCancel

  • Sara Neuenschwander Davis - seriously beautiful. thank you.ReplyCancel

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