Time is so precious because it’s so fleeting. Just yesterday, I had two little ones; the one on my hip and the other clinging to my leg. Today, I’m a mum of two teenagers, both of whom are, right now, in their rooms behind closed doors.
When I think back to when they were little and so incredibly needy, I recall wishing for these teenage years. I longed for them to be older, to take care of themselves, to stop needing me so much.
Back then, it always felt like I desperately needed my space and some time away from them.
I remember saying to a newly married colleague of mine that my kids sucked the life out of me. He laughed at me, not taking it seriously, but I told him he would see soon enough.
The interrupted nights’ sleep, tantrums, bath times, feeding challenges, and so much more left me utterly exhausted. Once I got home from work, there was never a moment to myself. Even to go to the bathroom, I had two tiny persons standing outside the door until I was done.
I never got a chance to watch TV. Instead, I was subjected to the same cartoon day in and day out. Every night, the mountains of laundry, packing away of tiny clothes, and picking up strewn toys, was just enough to make me wish those days to be over.
At the time, I thought that nothing could ever be as bad as that living hell. I was at their mercy at every waking moment.
So many times, over and over again, I wished those years to be over and done with.
Then one day, it was.
And now my heart aches as I remember that it was not all bad.
The fact is that we never really appreciate things until they’re gone or it’s too late. That’s how I feel right now, the longing, the shame, and regret for not savoring those moments that I will never ever get back.
There was that pure and inhibited joy and happiness of those early years. I miss it. I miss the hugs, the kisses, the giggles, the sweetness of their smell. I long to relive those new, sweet experiences with them, watching them discover whole new worlds that brought them wonder.
I miss the superhero dress-up, even when it was to just go shopping. Nostalgia hits me deep when I look at Spiderman, Woody, and Buzz, just packed away at the back of the cupboard. Things of the past that were once so important.
I remember laying out that pink dress, matching headband and shoes, not forgetting the fairy wings. These are now replaced by jeans, black shirts, and black boots, and frequent eye-rolls at any of my outfit suggestions. My eyes well up when I see that beloved stuffed unicorn, Barney, Dora, and all those Barbies that meant so much, just shoved into bags, kept out of sight.
And those hugs and kisses at the end of the day, the genuine happiness to see their mum. That was therapy for the soul, no matter what.
I miss hearing “Mummy, I want you,” “Mummy, look what I’ve made for you,” or “Mummy, can you hold me?”
I miss it all, even the tantrums. I truly wish that I had taken the time to appreciate everything about those years.
Now, I am a mum of two teenagers. The years that I had wished for are here, but instead of the freedom and relief, I feel a deep sense of loss.
There is a fair amount of freedom now to focus on me, but I feel incomplete, less needed, and more of a secretary to my kids.
I know their schedules like the back of my hand. When they need things re-scheduled, I make the necessary calls. Help with homework and projects… done! Someone to talk to about their issues, I make myself available. When I know that they’ve had a particularly hard day, I make their favorite dinner.
But there’s no longer that pure happiness and uninhibited appreciation for me. The easy joy and smiles no longer exist. It’s just shrugs, grunts, and one-word answers now.
My little ones are gone, and they are never coming back.
They have irrevocably changed. Once sweet, cherub faces now have well-defined cheekbones and jaw lines. Their bodies have transformed into someone else’s. And those little voices are now so refined. With altered personalities and moods that have become so unpredictable, it’s hard to recall why I thought them to be little monsters only a few years ago.
These are different people that are living with me. I’m getting to know them again to find out what they like, their goals, and what they believe in now. But it pains me to know that this is it. Their lives are their own, and I can no longer live it for them or guard them against their fears.
We had something so pure, beautiful, magical, and freely happy as a family back then when they were little. It’s hard not to grieve for the passing of time, and the children who hugged me so close, sat on my lap and kissed me with so much love.
A consolation is that I see them evolving daily into wonderful, dynamic young people. They impress me with the things they can do independently, not needing their mum all the time. They inspire me because they keep going. Sticking with the things they enjoy doing, even if they’re not good at them, they persevere.
This business of letting go is so very hard. But I don’t only want to focus on the days gone by and miss out on the new experiences of the present.
So, I will allow myself to miss my babies. I will mourn the passing of time, and I know that this will be an ongoing process. But I will also look forward to the future, to the lives they will be building, to the milestones they will be achieving.
I am having a hard time dealing with the way things are right now. But, as much as I want to hold my children in my arms forever, as a parent I know, that my greatest achievement in life will be when they become happy, wholesome, and fulfilled adults.