I’ve always been terrible at goodbyes. I’ve never been one to accept change very well and, since I can remember, every transition for me has been painstaking.
Growing up, perhaps it was parting ways with friends for the summer, my first day at my new high school, graduating college and feeling like there was no ground beneath me, moving to a new city (L.A.) and letting go of the only home I’d ever known. I even have a hard time when I need to get a new car and let go of the one in which I shared so many memories. I mean, seriously, I have an issue.
Becoming a mother changed pretty much everything in my life, but mostly, it forced me into a paradox of change and letting go that has challenged every ounce of my being.
After my first son, Ryder, was born, time became unrelenting—not pausing for me to enjoy and savor my son’s first gummy smile, his first giggle, the feel of his body next to mine at 2:00 a.m. as I rocked him back to sleep, exhausted and delirious. I can hear my own mother’s voice, telling me what she had learned when she became a mother. She told me not to wish for time to go faster, to get to the next stage, because you can’t get back the ones that have past. Even when they seem hard and impossible, you will miss them.
But I didn’t listen. I was so excited for Ryder to get to the “next” stage that I didn’t languish enough in the present. I can recall being in a mommy-and-me class and seeing some of Ryder’s peers at 8 months old getting on all fours, crawling and pulling to stand like little superheroes, and I couldn’t wait to see him do all those things. I couldn’t wait for him to grow up. Why couldn’t I just have enjoyed a few more months of him cuddled in my arms, still not able to explore the world, instead of Googling baby development milestones and forcing him into way more floor time than he wanted?
Every step along the way with Ryder, I looked ahead, so excited to see each adorable milestone. Then I had baby #2, Asher, and everything changed.
I didn’t know if Asher was my last baby so I have tried to relish every moment and stage with this kid. When it came to breastfeeding, Asher self-weaned at 14 months and I tried to convince him to change his mind for weeks following our last feed.
I cuddle him at bedtime in his baby rocking chair (he’s almost 3) and indulge every demand he has—tickling his back, singing him songs and simply stroking his hair. To me, he’s still my baby, and as I hold him I’m catapulted back in time as if I’m on the DeLorean with Michael J. Fox, holding him as a newborn again—only this time instead of his thick blonde curls, I can feel his fine white baby fuzz on his tiny head. I can feel his little body on mine breathing into me, sleeping in that rocking chair, mouth open in that adorable milk daze.
When he runs toward me at preschool pickup grinning, I think about that chubby little baby who smiled at me as he took his first few unsteady steps in our living room before falling flat on his tush.
And when I accidentally pull out clothes that he’s way outgrown, I quickly tuck them away, pushing them to the back of his drawer, hiding my longing for days long past.
I’m trying to stop time, to avoid the goodbyes.
As my older son is approaching kindergarten and my baby will be in school five days a week in the fall, I get a mini panic attack thinking about the speed at which it’s all going. Each year I create videos for my children, like a virtual yearbook of sorts leading up to their birthdays. A few days ago, I played the one I made for each of them when they turned 1 and I could barely see the adorable images through my (mostly happy) tears.
I can’t freeze time and I can’t avoid change. My two boys have gracefully moved through each phase of their babyhood, bravely facing the unknown.
I have a lot to learn from them.
These days, when my older son wakes me up to tell me he needs a fifth flashlight in his bed or my 3-year-old can’t get himself to sleep in his crib, I don’t wish time away nor for it to move backward. I just hold my boys a little closer and enjoy every beautiful moment that is NOW.
*Edited by Ella Stewart. Ella has been a copy editor and editor for 15 years, working in both print and online publishing. She’s currently a full-time stay-at-home mom to two little ones as well as a freelance editor.