She was standing there after what I can only assume had already been a harrowing day, a baby strapped to her chest, another crawling on the nearby carpet and a toddler, tired from his gymnastics class, weeping from exhaustion. It was summer, after all, a time of going and doing, hot summer days and not-early-enough nights.
That's when she noticed me, standing with my almost-13-year-old son, who had recently shot past me in height. His self possession and maturity must have struck her, as I could see a quick glint of jealousy streak across her face. I recognized that look. I'd had it not so long ago when I was the mom of little tots, which elevated my joy to the heavens while sapping my strength. I remember coveting the phase of life other moms were in: children able to go potty alone, able to dress themselves, tell me if they were hungry or tired or sick.
"I can't wait until they are that big," she said to me, a half smile on her face as if to say, "I'm only joking." And she was. Sort of. Certainly she loved her little bundles, loved cuddling their fresh-washed bodies as she read them bedtime stories at night; loved seeing the newness of everything through their eyes; loved teaching them how to function on the most basic level. Yet, she also wasn't joking. She also needed a break. She is tired; she feels an unrelenting giving of herself only to look in the mirror and wonder where she went to. I know. I remember.
Looking at her with what I hoped was understanding, I could only say one thing: "Don't wish it away."
If I'd had had more time to expound I would have said more. So, to all of you tot moms, listen to my words carefully. Because right here, right now, I'm telling you (and her) what I know you've already heard so many times but still needs repeating:
Don't wish away the 725th time you are asked to read Winnie the Pooh. Pretty soon, they will be reading on their own and then you'll look back and wonder when was the last time you read to them.
Don't wish away their begging for you to swim just one more time. One day very soon, they are off with friends, splashing and squealing, barely registering your presence on the sidelines.
Don't wish away the long nights of rocking, singing, holding and nuzzling your child to sleep. I know you want to just go downstairs, pour a glass of wine and watch Real Housewives for a little bit. But stay a little longer, sing another song. One day it will be the last one they let you sing.
Don't wish away the hot playground dates or snow cone trips. I know their smelly, messy and repetitive, but one day sooner than you think, those days will be a dim, distant but lovely memory.
Stay a little longer at the party, savor the good and the bad, thank God for each precious fleeting moment. These days feel like they won't end, but I promise they do, opening up new seasons, new experiences and exciting journeys. But for now, walk slowly down the path you are on. Drink it in. Soak it up.
Because one day, before you realize it, you will be looking up into your child's big beautiful eyes at the young man he's becoming. The little boy will be gone. And you will wonder where the time went.