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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In the Blink of an Eye

I must have blinked. I'm sure that it was just yesterday that I was in here, rocking her to sleep amongst the Noah's Ark animals inhaling the sweet smell of baby powder and now I'm watching her in the mirror as I reach for the clasp on her necklace. She turns and asks me if she looks ok.

"Yes," I say, "You look beautiful."

We take pictures and laugh while the atmosphere is frenzy with activity and nerves.
Yesterday she held her daddy's hand across the street.
Today as she leaves for prom on the arm of a handsome suitor I say under my breath, "Bye, Baby.”
I'm surprised at the ache I feel. It took me by surprise. You see, I don't normally have the time to be verklempt. I've been too busy raising her for seventeen long, exhausting, sleep deprived years to be emotional. Yet, today, in the blink of an eye and twirl of the gown, it's become reality; my baby is all grown.
Now the voice of every single old woman who told me, "Treasure these times, honey. They'll be gone before you know it" is ringing in my ears. Perhaps wisdom does, in fact, come with age.
However, I'm not convinced that I am longing for those days of preschool, science fairs and band concerts. I certainly wouldn't voluntarily go back in time. I'm simply stunned, reeling from the newfound fact that those years are all gone now. I'm realizing I was so busy surviving parenting that I forgot to prepare for the end of it.
But who has time to prepare? Mothers are knee deep in laundry, homework, grocery shopping, well checks, Halloween costumes, temper tantrums, field trips and dance recitals. Some day's I feel embattled doing all I can to raise polite, intelligent, musical, courteous kids who know how to save money, load the dishwasher and fold their own laundry. All my energy, emotional and mental, is completely engaged in the day-to-day demands of parenting. I hardly know what we're eating for dinner tomorrow how can I know what to prepare for the day I realize my daughter is grown up?
So sure, the wise voices are true in that the days are gone in the blink of an eye, but I'm struggling to believe that there is anything I could have done about that. Who enjoys sleep deprivation, colic and wet beds in the middle of the night? Those who have graduated from the ranks of parenting warned me of this day precisely when my kid was wailing, embarrassing me in the middle of the grocery store or when I was stuck at home lonely for days on end. I couldn’t possibly, even with their warning, have appreciated those days while in the midst of them.
Those very stressful parenting memories were not buffered with the knowledge that they would soon pass. All I craved was peace, sleep and an uninterrupted shower. Nothing else at those moments would comfort me -especially the thought that my child would be grown up someday. I simply thought, “Thank God she’ll be gone someday!”
Don't get me wrong parenting can be glorious. What a wonderfully, awesome responsibility I have to raise my sons and daughters into strong, resilient adults who will (I hope) make the world a better place. I hope for that in my heart’s dreams but my head is crying out for a break. I need to survive today's demands.
This is why I believe parenting is one of the hardest jobs on the planet. I am fully aware of the incredible privilege of bringing a child into the world and am instantaneously fearful that I do not have what it takes to do it well.
Regardless one thing is true; you never have enough time to do all you need to do and simultaneously appreciate all you need to appreciate. It’s a shame that the future is lost in the midst of dirty diapers and the other thankless chores of parenting.

Yet as I gazed, amazed at my grown baby in her formal gown my brain is forced to confront the truth. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project is emphatically correct when she writes “The days are long and the years are short” and there is nothing any of us can do about that. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

Author Stephanie Sikorski is a mother to 5 children and is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District. This is a part of a weekly Practical Parenting series she write for The Daily Review Atlas.

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