By: Shannon Ralph
It’s a cliché we’ve all heard a million times before. I have never given it much thought beyond “Yea, that’s probably true.” Time flies when you’re having fun. Right? Well, time flies when everything is not fun and games, as well. When life is a struggle, time flies. When two infants are keeping you up all night. When your oldest son is struggling in school. Amidst IEP’s and therapy sessions and crying kindergarteners and job searches and desperate attempts to keep your head above water. Time flies.
Last week, I sent my babies off to kindergarten. On the eve of the first day of school, Sophie and Nicholas asked to take their baths together like they did when they were little. I hesitated, but eventually gave in. At some point, boys and girls bathing together becomes inappropriate. However, they were my babies and I wanted them to remain babies one day longer. As I watched them play in the bathtub, I was struck by how their long, lean bodies completely filled the bath tub. When they lay down flat, their heads touched one end of the tub and their little toes pressed against the cold porcelain on the other end. How could this possibly be true? Wasn’t it just last week that they looked so incredibly tiny and fragile engulfed by the giant bathtub? Where did the time go?
I somehow missed the moment when my babies became children. What could I possibly have been doing that I managed to miss such an amazing transformation? When I was in the midst of potty training two children, it seemed as though we would be up to our ears in dirty diapers forever. Looking back now, it is as though the kids shed their diapers in a matter of mere seconds. One day they were chubby little cherubs crawling around in diapers on my kitchen floor. The next day, they were suddenly and inexplicably these tall, gorgeous, sophisticated children with ideas and interests of their own. Headstrong children. Children who were ready to start school and begin living and learning out in the world.
So what is a mother to do? Children grow up. There comes a time when they must enter the world. We must hand them over to other people to mold and fashion and teach. My role as the most important person in their lives is slowly beginning to diminish. They will make friends who will influence them. They will have teachers who inspire them. They will meet other adults who they will want to emulate. Yes, I will always be their mother. But I will no longer be their everything.
I know the whole goal of parenthood is to raise independent, assertive children who can go out into the world and be productive, contributing members of society. I think this is an honorable goal and one that I am happy to work toward. But why does it have to happen so fast? Can’t we hold off a few more years on independence? Can’t assertiveness be shelved for another day? Way off in the future? I just want to hold onto them. I want to continue to be their entire world the way that they are mine. Is that too much to ask?
Time flies. And I don’t like it.