If every parent has a sweet spot, a period of time during which they most enjoyed being a parent, for me, that time is now.
When my children were babies and I was bleary-eyed from long nights that were as restful and scintillating as an endless game of musical chairs can be, well-meaning older folk would admonish me to treasure my children’s youth because, “it goes so fast.” They would take the liberty of advising me that in the blink of an eye it would all vanish and later I would miss my babies and their baby years. Although, some days I have a sixty-second urge to cuddle a sweet-smelling baby, I never have the urge to parent one.
The early years were full of this; child A needs to be picked up from school but child B is napping and it’s 2 degrees out. So I wake the peacefully slumbering baby, lift him all warm and snuggly from his crib and throw a fleecy snowsuit on the floor. Then, I manipulate a miserable baby, often with a runny nose, into a snowsuit, and follow that with the thrill of shoehorning a squirming child into a car seat while ignoring that child’s shrieks of indignation. Of course, the baggie of Cheerios I hand said child will soon be hurtling across the car only to land in some godforsaken corner, to be discovered by a cleaning expedition some 5 years hence.
When child C was an infant, I was in the car with my nine-year-old and the infant. For the forty-minute car ride, the infant wailed. My nine-year-old fretted, “Mommy,” he said “the baby must be sitting on a pin.” It made perfect sense, if he was not sitting on a pin why would he cry like that? Why would he cry until his entire body and seat were drenched with perspiration, tears and snot? No one will ever know.
Back then, when the guilt of harried and imperfect parenting flooded in, I wondered if I would look back one day and feel unsatisfied that I had not lived in the moment enough; that I had not been present enough to squeeze the joy out of every one of those days. Sometimes the things my children said and did were so precious they made me want to hug the stuffing out of them but those kernels of adorableness were small rays of light in a series of endless demands, repetitious prattling and mind-numbing caregiving tasks. But now that my children are 24, 19 and 15, I realize that I did live in that moment; it’s just that that particular moment was not my parenting sweet spot. This one is.
I loved my little boys but I love the adult versions of them better, or maybe it would be more apt to say that I just enjoy them as adults more than I did as babies. I love that with two out of the house, the pace is slower but that I still have a companion at home. I love our family texting thread where we share ideas, accomplishments, random thoughts, jokes, memes and anything we think the others will enjoy. I love that I can send them something I’ve written and they can give me helpful and constructive feedback. I love that they make me laugh with their quick dry wit. I love that my son and I can discuss what he’s serving his guests for dinner. I love that the two oldest can vote and that they know more about politics than I do. I love that exciting adult things are happening for them.
My sense is that this is the moment before dawn turns to day and so, if I could, I would freeze time right now. In short order, the picture will once again rearrange itself. They will be mine for only a moment longer until they are someone else’s, someone else’s friend, employee, or life-partner. Even the echoes of their youth, which still reverberate, will one day go still. When I look back at baby pictures I will smile at how cherubic they were, but it is for this moment that I will yearn, the exquisite instant when they had one foot in their own world but one foot still solidly in mine.