It’s hard to believe that time flies by as fast as it does. People always told me “Don’t blink. It will be over before you know it.” That statement has always overwhelmed me. Being a mom is by the far the most rewarding and difficult thing I have ever done. Sometimes it feels like the day will never be over and other times it feels like it’s all just flying by. I heard a quote once that has stuck with me ever since.
“The days are long but the years are short.” – Gretchen Rubin
This quote has grown to mean more to me over the years. I have begun to truly understand its significance in my life as well as truly come to internalize the “Don’t blink” statement. It does go so fast. Its like the years are slipping through my fingers. I can’t seem to catch them and if I do I can’t hold onto them for long enough. I am thoroughly enjoying each stage of life. I love having a little toddler romping around and listening to the tales of a middle schooler. It’s definitely overwhelming to feel like you have one foot in one stage of life and another stretching far out into another. I feel like sometimes I am simply just not enough. I want to slow time down so I can get a better hold on my child. So I can better understand them and know how to help them. I have little panic attacks when I think of my 9 years old and the fact that he has already spent half of his short home life with us.
18 years (with potentially a few more added on) at home. That’s it. That’s all the time I have with them under my roof. That’s all the time I have to see their smiling faces greeting my after school (and sometimes even less than that when you count brooding preteen/teenager years) that’s all the time I have to absorb every last memory of them under my roof as I can. 18 years in the grand scheme of things is so fleeting. And it feels fleeting. The number feels heavy.
My 11-year-old stresses me out because I know he will be breaking free of my nest and flying on his own in a little over 6 years. 6 years? That just makes my breath catch in my throat. It makes my eyes well up with tears and the panic begin to set in. Have I taught him enough? Does he know how much I love him? Is he ready? He is my oldest so I know I’ve probably screwed up plenty with him. He is one amazing kid and I feel so blessed to be his mom, but have I been a good enough one?
I feel a little better about my younger ones, almost 2 and barely 6, are much more manageable ages. I have lots more time with them. I have plenty of time to get it right. Not that I know really what I’ve done wrong. And I am definitely much more tired now with 5 kids than I was with 1 or 2. I don’t always feel like I have the time I want with each of them. I feel spread thin but at the same time I feel like I am bursting with love and have room for a few more kids in my heart.
This parenting gig is hard. There is no book. No one to tell me what I’m doing right or what I’m doing wrong. I didn’t have the best example for a mother and I spent a lot of my early years of parenting just trying to not be like her. So much so that I probably went too far in the opposite direction instead of trying to find a healthy middle ground. I’ve since learned to work towards a middle ground. I’ve grown as a person, as a mother and as a wife. Things have changed, my perspective has changed and I’ve realized that I won’t be the perfect mother, because there is no such thing. But I can be the best mother for my kids. I can be present and focus on their well-being. Something I feel like my mother never did.
People say things to you, like don’t blink. Or it will be over before you know it. But what they don’t tell you is how not to blink, or how to slow time down. They don’t tell you that no matter how much you hold on, and no matter how good of a parent you are, there will still be regrets. There will still be the “I wonder what I should have done differently” thoughts that enter our minds from time to time.
“The years tell us much that the days never knew.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
This quote hung in my house for years, it got lost somewhere along the way in one of our many moves and I have been searching for the perfect replacement lately. I feel like this quote was a guiding beckon in my life as a young mother. It gave me hope that I wasn’t totally screwing up. It reminded me that even thought what I felt like I was doing on a daily basis might seem insignificant, that is actually wasn’t. Those small moments in those sometimes endless days add up over time and you are left with a beautiful journey. A joy filled life.
I think this quote had such an impact on me because it reminded me that while the work I was doing every single day may seem repetitive and overwhelming and even sometimes unimportant that it truly is THE MOST IMPORTANT. I can look back now on my oldest sons short life so far (he is 11.5) and I can see how those days added up to the years and how those seemingly insignificant moments were actually extremely significant.
I remember when I was a young(er) mom how it sometimes seemed like the hours slowly ticked by. Those days really were LONG. Sometimes I would agonize over how many hours it was until my husband got home and I could have some adult interaction. I was young and we were in military so I didn’t have a lot of social interaction outside my husband. I used to think those many hours spent alone with my little kids were the longest of my life. I used to internally having a laughing fit when those people would tell me not to blink and that it would go by fast. There was lots of thoughts of how slow it all seemed to be and how I couldn’t wait for this milestone or that next event.
But then somewhere alone the way, I’m not even sure when it was, those long drawn out days became short, not nearly enough time days. The somehow morphed without me even noticing it. Those long days started to zip by in a blur. Somehow my little babies weren’t babies anymore. Those tiny little hands and toes had grown into those of a little boy and then a young man. It almost felt like I had wished away those long early days. Of course some of them were still long (some still are) but mostly they were over and done before I knew they had even begun. As my kids get older I am very acutely aware of just how significant those days are. I once heard a statistic (that I won’t share here because the number was super stressful for me) about how many Saturdays our kids had with us. Ya’ll, that number was not nearly as big as what I thought it would be. My brain started doing the math and I started adding up the birthdays, holidays, vacations and summer breaks and I realized that those numbers were almost painfully small. So limited and so fleeting. It was then that time became so much more precious to me. After I got over the shock and the fear filled anxiety those numbers gave me, I started to realize how truly significant the days were too.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m human. I have plenty of faults and one of those faults is sometimes wishing the day was over with. Being a mom of several children with special needs and having my own share of health problems, there are days where I am still counting down the hours until it’s over and I can go to bed, or watch my “show”. I still need plenty of me time to fill my bucket. I still get frustrated and overwhelmed and the mere thought of how many times I am messing up crosses my mind so dang many times a day. I am far from perfect. I loss my temper and I need my space. I am not always the most patient mother and I make plenty of mistakes. Forget saving up for college I probably need to save up for my kids counseling bill when they become adults. But I have begun to realize more and more the powerful impact of those two quotes….
“The days are long but the years are short.”
“The years tell us much that the days never knew.”
I don’t have to be perfect but as my wise friend said the other day I can be “perfectly trying”. I am trying to focus on the days, the moments, the little blips of time that fill each day. Not every second is profound, not every day is overflowing with long-lasting memories and pivotal moments. But there is great joy in the small moments. When the day feels like its rushing by, my patience is failing me, and my heart can’t take much more my sweet little boy will come up to me, grab me in a tight hug and look up at me with overflowing love in his eyes. It’s right there. I can see it written all over his face. I can literally feel his love for me radiating out of him. It’s almost like he is trying to give me his love, to give me the feelings he is feeling, so that I can feel better too. It’s in those moments, those little passing seconds in time where I truly understand what Joy is. It’s those moments I live for, that I hold onto, when the rest of time is zooming past me. Those are the moments that add up into a life time of memories. It’s in those brief seconds that I get a glimpse of what heaven must feel like.
When I see the people my kids are growing into, when I watch my older kids being to test out their wings of freedom and I see them flourish in their efforts I realize that those seemingly endless days so long ago, but at the same time feel like just yesterday, all added up to this amazing kid. That gives me hope. I don’t know how to not blink. I don’t have the answers to slow down time, but I do know that the harder I try to hold on, to the past, the more I miss out on the present. The more I think about how I wish that I hadn’t wished time away, the more I miss out on whats going on in front of me. I’m pretty sure I will always have baby fever. I will always want the chance to start clean with a new precious little life and this time I will hold onto each moment as tight as I can. Just knowing that those thoughts go through my head makes me chuckle. Because I’ve had several babies since my AH HA, life is flying by, mental clarity moment and each time I still never could manage to hold on to time. They all still grew up too fast. Time never slowed down and I could never manage to get a firm grip on it. It passed through my hands like the rushing of a water fall.
I have learned though, that I can’t dwell on what used to be but I can live in the moment. I can make those limited summer vacations, Christmases, birthdays and weekends count. And it doesn’t have to be in some grand way. I don’t have to wake up and spend every single second trying to make it “the best day ever”. My kids don’t need this overwhelmingly grand gesture days. They need me. They need me to be there for them in those small moments. They need me to be present and I can be Present. The day will be over before I know it. The weekend will be over and done before it began and the summer vacation a distant memory before I even think to blink. And as anxious and hard as it is for me to watch life pass by so quickly and to know that my years with my kids at home are limited It’s even more terrifying for me to think that I might miss it all by not being Present in the moment.
Years ago, before getting married and becoming a mom I went to Hawaii with some friends for a wedding. We drove this long winding road up a mountain to get to this glorious “end” where there were seven sacred pools, and a black lava beach. The drive was a long one, to go all the way around was 10-12 hours. It was a long, winding trip with over 600 curves and 50 something one lanes bridges. And while the end result was a breath-taking vista filled with sacred pools and unimaginable views, that wasn’t the only reason to make a 10-12 hour trip. The reason people make the trek is for the trek itself. I’m sure if the road was barren and unwelcoming, few people would actually make the journey to see the sacred pools, but that’s not the case. The drive to Hana is breath-taking. We stopped many times along the way to just take in the views and enjoy our surroundings. I don’t think I have ever seen anything as beautiful as I did on that drive. I think of that trip often and about how if I had my sights set on the end result, the sacred pools, that I would have missed everything else along the way. And while the sacred pools truly were awe-inspiring, the drive itself was what made the trip so worthwhile.
On the website Road to Hana its describes the drive like this…..
“The Road to Hana is more than just a great drive through a beautiful area of Maui. Most visitors tend to zip to and from Hana with a checklist of sights to photograph. This is the wrong way to do it.”
I feel like that so often in my life as a mother. Zipping from one thing to the next with my checklist in hand is not the right way to do it. To truly experience the road to Hana I had to stop along the way. I had to gaze out my window at the world that was whisking by and find joy in all of it. I didn’t and couldn’t stop every second along the way, but I could take the time to be present and drink it all in as it whisked past me and I could stop when I truly felt like I needed to experience the place and then I could really seal it in my memory. That drive has been something I have thought about many times in my life. Its been something that has propelled me as a mother. Life is like that road to Hana…. at the end of life is a beautiful kingdom waiting for us, but that’s not the point of life is it? It’s not to hurry up and get to the end but to learn to stop along the way, to be present, to take it all in and find joy in the journey there. We can’t take our worldly possessions with us but we can take our mind, we can take our experiences and our memory. We can take the snapshots from life that we hold so dearly with us into our heavenly kingdoms….. so wouldn’t it make sense to live in the moment, to take in as much as we can and enjoy the journey? The journey won’t always be perfect and beautiful, you won’t always want to stop along the way and take a snap shot to remember that time by, but all of those moments, even the ones that don’t seem so significant, all add up to a beautiful life. The years truly do tell us much that the days never knew. And as a very wise man once said “The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
“Life is just like an old-time rail journey … delays, side tracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”- Gordon B Hinckley
To end this long post (sorry guys) I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes. The combination of that and the above quote are what inspired the name for my blog.
“Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey and share our love with friends and family. One day, each of us will run out of tomorrows. Let us not put off what is most important.” – President Thomas S. Monson