I remember being a kid, and thinking that the school years lasted forever. One cycle of September to June felt like an eternity, as I counted down the days until classes ended and camp began. Of course, once summer came, everything was reversed. I’d blink, and the first day of camp became the last. My friends, some of whom I only saw during the summer months, and I would sit atop hot gravel in tight hugs, tears streaming down our faces. Why, we wondered, did we wish time away? What we would have given to go back to day one.
Parenthood, I’m learning, is a lot like this. The beginning few weeks, the ones that are filled with sleeplessness, confusion, and the startling realization that your life is forever changed — those weeks are the school year. The middle of the night diaper changes, the endless rocking to sleep, the closing of the eyes for just moments — they might as well be tests, homework, presentations. In those quiet hours, a countdown became evident in my mind: Just make it to three months. Make it to four months. Make it to when she’s sitting. When she’s crawling. When she’s walking. When she can say, “I love you.”
Today, despite the fact that there’s snow on the ground, felt like summer. Izzy, who usually would much rather play on the floor than sit in my lap, was extremely snuggly. Out of character snuggly. She typically rejects the rocking chair (why did we buy that thing?) but today, she let me hold her while sitting for a solid thirty minutes. She put her head on my shoulder and reached up with her arms, almost, almost like she was giving a hug. And I realized that this was a moment that, one day, I’ll want back. I’ll want to hit rewind, want to time travel to that messy bedroom, that unwashed hair, the maternity leggings I’m still wearing at five months postpartum. This part, I think, is summer camp.
It’s almost impossible to enter into motherhood and not wish time away. I think being a parent is a constant tug-of-war between wanting to just get to the next step and wanting to go backwards, or at least hold on. It doesn’t help that everywhere you go, there’s someone telling you: Don’t blink! They grow up so fast! And those words create a pressure that is endlessly heavy. Motherhood is hard enough without having to worry that you’re not savoring enough moments. The 2 a.m. crying, the days without sleep, the breastfeeding struggles — who can honestly savor those? I’m realizing that it’s okay to give myself permission to wish things away, as long as I balance it out with taking in the moments I’ll want to remember.
At some point during my adolescence, I learned the same thing: it was okay to want to be done with school, as long as I tried to relish the best days of the summer. And I did, I know I did, because I still have vivid memories. The murky lake where we would kayak and canoe. The smell of the bonfire on overnights. The sting of a volleyball as we played “Prisoner” in the sand.
And here’s what I’ll want to remember right now: The way Izzy laughs when I make cat noises at her, or when I kiss her tummy loudly. The way she smells after a bath, or how her weight shifts ever so slightly when she drifts off to sleep in my arms. How she still has no idea what she’s doing when she moves and she constantly grabs my cheeks or scratches my neck, and I don’t mind in the slightest. The triumphant look on her face when she does something new, like roll over or sit by herself for the tiniest of seconds. How each day, I feel like I love her more than the day before.
I won’t be able to hold onto all of it. Some of it, I will forget. But while this part is mine, I’ll do my best to be present when I can — and I’ll forgive myself for the moments when I can’t.
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