Almost daily I stop and ask myself the same question, “Is it just me?” and I promptly reassure myself and answer, “Of course not, dear. But it doesn’t matter even if so.” Recently, though I can’t help but question why I don’t feel the same way as seemingly so many others. Picture after picture is captioned, “I miss my babies!” or “Time please stop!” or “I wish I could go back!” I see these pictures, and while I love a quick dose of nostalgia, my first response is usually, “Like, how far back are we talking?”
Sure, I have wonderful memories of when my children were babies but I have no interest in going back there. You want to go back to the endless nights of staring at your newborn daughter for hours on end watching the rise and fall of her chest just to know with certainty that she’s still breathing? No thank you, I actually like to spend my nights sleeping. Back to the time when my son would cry in spits and spurts for no apparent reason and nothing I did seemed to soothe him? Oh, yes, please, sign me up for more of that.
I remember in particular one very long day when my son was about 4 months old and I just could not get him to settle down. We had enjoyed roughly four hours of an eat, sleep, cry cycle and I had just about had it. I decided to take him to the pediatric after-hours clinic and with my 3-year-old in tow, I had a plan. I was frazzled from the day and was not interested in waiting endlessly to see a doctor. I arrived at the clinic almost desperate; willing to hand cash to whoever was in line ahead of me. I was willing to give money to a stranger just so I could quickly get this baby to stop crying. So, do I want to go back to this place and time? Hardly.
I love that my kids are growing up; is that so wrong? I love the people they are becoming. I love to see them navigate through life and ask me thoughtful questions. I love that they are developing opinions and tastes that may or may not align with mine.
I love the fact that my son can tell me that the medicine burns, or that he feels like he might throw up. I love the fact that when she does throw up, my daughter can aim perfectly into the toilet. I love that they can easily explain to the doctor what ails them. Karaoke is a lot more fun now, too.
I am genuinely excited about my daughter’s fifth-grade year. I honestly wasn’t sad when my son started Kindergarten. His excitement about school was so infectious; how could I possibly be upset? I see how excited they are about the journey before them and I can’t see any other option but going along for the ride. I don’t find it sad to see my kids grow, blossom, and step into their life’s milestones.
That’s just it. Their life. It’s their life, not mine. I guess I can’t hold too tightly to something that’s not mine to begin with. I read a quote recently:
“To raise a child who is comfortable enough to leave you, means you’ve done your job. They are not ours to keep, but to teach how to soar on their own.”
This was a perfectly fine quote and in many ways, it spoke to me. But, so does Elizabeth Taylor and I’ve never met a diamond I didn’t like:
“I’ve never thought of my jewelry as trophies. I’m here to take care of them and love them, for we are only temporary custodians of beauty.”
Don’t get me wrong, the thought of my kids leaving and going to college makes me very sad; but I still wouldn’t discourage their wanderlust. And full disclosure, each night when I kiss them goodnight, I jiggle them gently just to hear them breathe. I guess old habits die hard.
As much as the thought truly sends shivers up my spine, I am their temporary custodian; my job is to prepare them to soar. They are two of the brightest jewels of my life. Brilliant and dazzling, precious and rare. Expensive. Temporarily mine to protect and nurture until they are ready to shine on their own.
This story originally appeared on Melanie Forstall – Stories of Life, Love, and Mothering