Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Recently, I was sitting at a football game with another high school coach's wife, who was trying to keep her preschooler happy with popcorn while simultaneously caring for her newborn daughter. Frazzled, she turned to me and asked, "This gets easier, right?"

I looked at my son, old enough at eight to help the team as a water boy, then scanned the crowd for my teen-age daughter, strolling around the stadium with her friends.

Just yesterday -- yesterday -- she was sitting beside me in the bleachers eating fruit snacks while I attempted to pacify her baby brother.

Now I sit at the games by myself.

By. Myself.

"Yes, it does," I said to her. "And all too soon, it will."

The young mother looked relieved. I, on the other hand, suddenly felt as if I had lost something. Something important. Something precious.

It's funny. When your first child is born, you cannot wait for every milestone: first smile, first laugh, first tooth, first step, first word, first sentence.

Before you know it, you're packing that first lunch box, and suddenly you burst into tears in the middle of your kitchen because your baby is going to preschool. And how can that be? How can she be so big that on the first day, she pushes you out of the classroom saying, "You can go now, Mom. I'm fine"?

Soon those lunch bags are packed for grade school, then middle school, then high school, where my daughter will be next year. And four swift years after that, lunch boxes become cardboard boxes and milk crates, filled with books and laundry supplies and toiletries for college.

Honestly, I can't even drive by the high school now without drawing a sharp breath, knowing my girl will be there soon, knowing how quickly that time will pass, knowing she'll be in college in the blink of an eye. Sometimes, if I'm by myself in the car, I even cry at the thought of it.

The other day, I was complaining about her constantly messy room, when my husband said, "You only have, what, five more years to put up with that?" and suddenly, I didn't care that she had two weeks worth of laundry piled on her dresser. I only cared that I had less than five years to fuss at her about it.

When my son was born, I was grateful that my daughter was old enough to start school, make new friends and create a busy world for herself, so that I had time to relish all of his baby moments, too.

I was not in such a hurry for him to reach his milestones. A more seasoned mother, I knew all too well how fast the world would absorb him.

Go slowly, I whispered, as he rocked on the floor on all fours, anxious to crawl into the big, wide world. Take your time, I pleaded, as he pulled up to the couch, grinning triumphantly. There's no hurry, I said, as he took those first wobbly steps away from me.

But children do hurry. They can't wait for the next phase, it seems. My second-grader is already pointing out the fourth-graders and saying, "Can you believe I'll be that tall soon?" And my daughter is suddenly asking questions about driving. (Incidentally, my son is also asking questions about driving, so I'm hiding the car keys.)

I keep searching store shelves for Keep 'Em Little Longer spray, but I've yet to find it. But maybe, if we're lucky, we can find a few moments when life seems to pause.

Yesterday was busy, and at 5 p.m., with supper looming and a sinus headache throbbing, I hit the afternoon wall. I just wanted to lie down on the couch and take a 20-minute nap. That's all. Just 20 minutes by myself on the living room sofa to refresh and recharge for supper, dishes, laundry and homework help.

I grabbed my favorite throw, curled up on the couch and closed my eyes, only to open them again when my son flipped on the lamp and plopped down beside me with a book.

"Um, Kyle?" I said, "Mom is trying to take a quick nap before supper."

"Go ahead," he said, "I read quietly."

Sigh. Okay. Reading is a quiet activity. I could still rest...

...until the flash of a camera startled me. It was my daughter, snapping photos of her frazzled Mom, giggling and insisting I use the (less than flattering) shots as facebook profile pics.

"Kelsey!" I groaned. "I'm trying to take a nap!"

They heard me, but they didn't listen. Kelsey dropped to the floor beside me and began to show me photos on her camera. Then somehow she and Kyle started talking about the kids' show, Dora the Explorer.

"You know what's ridiculous?" Kyle said, "When Dora says, 'You know where the banana tree is, right?' Um, Dora! You have a map! Use it!"

And Kelsey said, "For real! I mean, come on, Dora, if you can afford a talking backpack, I think you can swing a friggin' GPS!"

They both erupted in fits of giggles, Kelsey lying against the couch near my head, Kyle curled up at my feet. So much for my nap.

All I had wanted was 20 minutes to myself. I was about to angrily remind them of that when I paused.

My children were with me, laughing and loving. They actually wanted to be with their Mom.

It was then I heard softly the whispers of my heart.

Go slowly, it whispered. Take your time, it pleaded. There's no hurry, it insisted.

I'll have plenty of time for napping when my house is quiet. Today, I will relish the laughter.

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