It feels as if much of life is spent waiting for the next stage of life to happen. When we’re small children, we can’t wait to be teenagers. When we’re in high school, we can’t wait to graduate and go to college or start working and when we’re dating, we can’t wait to be married and have kids. As I watch my 2-year-old daughter, Sydney, play, I realize that this desire to grow up starts happening at a very young age. I notice that she’s more drawn to older kids than kids her own age and I can see the look of awe in her eyes as she watches them do big kid things. I can tell that she’s eager to learn from them and can’t wait until she’s old enough to do the same amazing feats.
The older she gets, the more I realize that in many ways, I’ve been in a rush for her to grow up as well. When Sydney was first born, there were so many things that I couldn’t wait for her to be old enough to do. I couldn’t wait until she finally slept through the night, I couldn’t wait until she started solid foods and was less reliant on me for breast milk. I couldn’t wait until she was walking and I didn’t have to carry her everywhere and I couldn’t wait until she was communicating with me and letting me know what she needed rather than me having to play the guessing game constantly.
Now as she is older and doing all of those things, I look at the experiences differently. I in no way shape or form miss the sleepless night where I survived on 2 to 3 hours of sleep at a time, but I wish that I’d appreciated those midnight cuddles more for what they were and how brief they really were. She walks and runs now and is too big for me to carry for too long and I find that I miss wearing her everywhere and that bonding that we had when we were joined together. She’s talks now but its usually to tell me that she doesn’t need help from me and that she wants to do something on her own.
You hear people say often that the days are long but the years are short and when you’re in the middle of taking care of a baby or chasing after a toddler, the former definitely seems to apply more than the latter. You may find yourself counting down the hours until nap or bedtime or wondering how you’re going to survive whatever phase of parenting a small child that you’re currently going through. As you get through one phase, you may get a small pause before jumping right into the next phase. Then that first birthday comes and you realize exactly what they mean and how fast it really does go.
Sydney is still little and still needs my help, but as the days and the years pass, Sydney will only become more independent and need my help less and less. I can’t go back in time and appreciate the moments that are now gone and I try not to beat myself up for missing any of them while I was in survival mode, but I can vow to appreciate the experiences and moments that we still have. As she learns new skills like tying her shoes or dressing herself, I can step back and enjoy the moment rather than getting frustrated with how slow she moves. As she barges into the bathroom and insists on sitting with me, I can be happy that she wants to spend every moment with me because at some point she’ll be a teenager that wants me to go away. I can teach her to not be in such a rush to grow up by slowing down myself and letting her know how amazing each phase of her life is because she gets to learn new things that she never knew how to do before.