When our children are first born, it seems like forever until they’ll walk, talk, and be bustling little kids scampering around the house. It seems like ages until they’ll be holding intellectual conversations with us, driving a car, and moving away. But, boy, time flies, and those days come sooner than we expect. How do we cope with the rapid passing of time? How do we make the most of each day? How do we cherish our precious moments before they’ve escaped us?
I saw a quote online over the summer that said something to the effect of “We only have 18 summers with our children”. 18 summers. 18 summers to play and teach and learn and enjoy. 18 summers of running through the sprinklers and going to the park and getting ice cream together. 18 summers until they are grown and on their own.
This stopped me in my tracks. My children are almost 5 and 7, and while they’re still young, the number of summers I get with my oldest are almost cut in half. In 7 more summers, he’ll be 14, and his priorities will be different. He’ll be a teenager, focused on friends, dreaming of driving and getting a job, considering colleges and planning for his own life. Will he even want to enjoy summers with us as a family? Maybe we don’t even get 18 summers when we consider the realities of adolescent life.
As parents, how do we mentally slow time down to make the most of it? It’s not that I don’t want my kids to grow up. My job is to raise them. But is it possible that we get so caught up in doing our ‘job’ that the days pass us by and we miss the bigger picture? I like to think I enjoy each day as people cautioned me to when I was pregnant. I like to think I take my grandparents advice and cherish my littles even when they’re naughty. But that wouldn’t be totally honest. There are days when I feel bedtime can’t come soon enough because I just need a break. There are times when I long for them to grow up just enough to enjoy the next fun activity with them. There are plenty of moments when I wish they were more self-sufficient or independent. But, the truth is, I will miss doing those things for them. When your child no longer asks for your help with something, it’s a bit like a slap in the face. It awakens you to the fact that you won’t be needed as they mature and gain new life skills. It is a physical manifestation of how quickly the time is passing.
I am guilty of trying to stay as busy as possible. Somewhere in my head and my heart, this makes me feel like I’m not ‘wasting’ our precious time. If we are busy, constantly going places and doing things, then we will have more memories to look back on and I won’t feel that the time passed us by so quickly. But that’s a flawed resolution. Slowing down and doing absolutely nothing is not a waste of time. Some of the most intimate moments can spawn from simply being together. Sometimes being bored is the best recipe for play. And play is the best recipe for fun.
I was discussing this with my Father-in-law a few months ago when my husband turned 30. I explained the 18 summers quote to him and told him how fearful I was of time passing too fast. He said something to me that stopped my reeling and gave me perspective. He said, “Sure 18 summers doesn’t feel like a lot, but that’s not all you have. You have 50 Christmases. 50 years of decorating, baking, wrapping gifts and then opening them as a family.” When he put it this way, I felt so much better. He’s right. We don’t stop being parents after 18 summers. When our children are grown, we are still their mothers and fathers. Our relationship changes, but we can still enjoy our time with them. We can still enjoy the seasons and the holidays. We can still be there for them, but in a different way. 50 Christmases feels like a loooooong time to me. It is such a wise way to frame our time here on Earth.
Do you have a fear of time passing by too quickly? Are you guilty of staying busy so as not to waste time? How do you make the most of each day mentally and emotionally? Share in the comments how you’re feeling, we’re all in this together!