The Tough Days, The Precious Years

I love the “Memories” portion of Facebook, don’t you? Photos and posts from 1, 2, 3… 5 years ago pop up to remind you where you were — who you were — on that exact day years ago. It really gives you a heightened awareness of your journey. It also highlights just how fast times passes.

Recently, these photos appeared in my Facebook “Memories” feed. At first, I looked at my 3-years-younger children’s cherubic faces, my daughter’s shorter ringlets, my son’s toddler stature. Then, I remembered.

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I remembered this trip vividly. It was my turning point. It was when I finally began to feel my head cresting above water. I was moving beyond survival mode.

The months and long days prior were tough but precious. I remembered them with a visceral clarity. The sleeplessness, the tantrums, the constant needs, the perpetual demands (external and internal), the feeling as if everyone else had their shit together but me.

Prior to that day, I had a constant sense of being overwhelmed, underprepared, inept, but engulfed in love. I adored my children, but I struggled to wrangle my 1-year-old and 2.5-year-old. I strained to work part-time with a hellish commute while simultaneously striving to be the hands-on, involved mother I wanted to be.

I demanded of myself to be everything. To do everything. I refused to admit defeat. Other women could have, do, and be it all, so why couldn’t I? Wait… but could they? Could I?

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As I look back now with 3 years of experience, distance, and perspective, I can appreciate how adorable those little faces were. I can forget the tantrums over the granola bar being broken, the fits over a sippy cup being purple instead of blue, the frenzy over a pink tutu not being pink enough. I can forget the fatigued fog of lacking REM sleep. I can forget feigning that I was a career-minded woman in the office, attempting to hide my tears over missing my children’s first trip to a pumpkin patch or not being the one to kiss their scraped knees because I was managing spreadsheets. I can forget the hazardous work-home-life balancing act that never included myself. I can forget the public meltdowns, the car seat battles, the unexpected toddler bolt in public as I chased behind my pint-sized fugitive maneuvering the Snap-N-Go stroller through crowds.

Now, I can simply remember the good, the precious, the sweet. I hold onto memories of the cuddles, the sticky kisses, the chubby hands and dimpled knees, the adoration and clinging need that accompanies being someone else’s everything. I can mute the struggles and amplify the beauty. I can laugh at where I’ve been, even craving a momentary return to the madness. Those days were tough, the years were precious. The memories are priceless.

We Only Get This Summer Once

Yesterday we were at our local summer concert, enjoying music and the evening sun. Then, a familiar sight that makes my heart thump and my smile grow wide: my eldest two children happily running toward me from across the concert lawn. Heavy breaths through broad smiles, arms outstretched to envelop me in their sweaty hugs, their sneakers pounding through the sun-warmed turf. I saw it.

I saw how different my middle son was from last year. The change from 2-year-old to 3-year-old was striking. He’d lengthened, his face was leaner, his body was taller. I looked to my daughter, bounding toward me, her face more beautiful now than cute, just days away from her 5th birthday. I felt the weight of my 1-year-old in the carrier, no longer the newborn peanut he was last summer. How much they’d changed in just a year! My eyes grew misty and my throat caught.

We have only one summer each year with our children, the next they will be older, bigger, more independent, less mommy-centric. Interests will be different, maturity and skills will have advanced, they’ll push further from us and deeper into the outside world.

As exhausting and tumultuous as the days can be, as wearing and patience-testing as this young stage is, it only happens once. We only get THIS summer once.

Soak it in. Commit it to memory. Smile. Laugh. Enjoy it. Next summer will be entirely different.