Each day I start by reviewing my Facebook feed. As shallow as that may sound, there is intention to it. Because in between all of the more mundane updates from colleagues, friends and family (which I thoroughly enjoy) there are nuggets. I find that almost every day I “need” a nugget to help me along with this parenting gig and thanks to the Internet, I can usually get it. This morning I got a big one. It made me tear up as a Mom shared her conflicted feelings about sending her daughter off to college and reminiscing about where all the time has gone. She went on to say what every single other parent says, IT GOES FAST. When you’re in it, it doesn’t always feel that way – in fact, it often doesn’t. The days can be long, exhausting and hard at times. But, when you begin to look back, you wonder where the years have gone, whether it be 3, 6 or the full 18. At some point you’re launching a young adult into the world and you’re just praying that you’ve taught them everything you wanted to and meant to and that they’ll be OK. Somehow you go from having a child attached to you to being grateful when they choose to spend a night home with you instead of being out with their friends. And, then, poof, just like that, your baby is gone.
If you wonder why I consider this a nugget (as opposed to getting myself upset early in the morning), it’s this.
Last evening before bed, Ellie was being a pill. For anyone who doesn’t quite use or remember that expression (I know I heard it a lot in my house growing up), let’s just say she was being a pain in the butt. She’s 7 – it’s going to happen. She’s learning and there’s so much more to learn. She’s also testing boundaries which is her job too. And, as her parents, it’s our job to reaffirm where those lines are so they’re not habitually crossed, to sit down with her and discuss how to be a good friend and asking her what she thinks that looks like as she navigates situations with her best friend. And then there’s just general lack of cooperation and a sassy attitude to boot. So, when the time comes finally for bed and she tells me that she wants me to snuggle with her in her bed, I have to tell her NO. Not only because it’s now past 9:00pm on a school night but also because I fear it sends a wrong message. I explained to her that she’s not being very kind and right now it would feel like snuggling with a porcupine and I didn’t want to get poked. She actually thought this was quite funny.
She went to bed and fell asleep in no time but the situation weighed on me because in that moment, I knew I just lost a chance to snuggle with my girl and you never know when that chance won’t come again. It’s a constant fine line to walk.
This morning I was up way too early thanks to a rare heat wave and a loud upstairs neighbor. I tried to return to slumber to no avail so I just laid there until I heard some creaking on the hardwood floors and turned to see my husband carrying in our 7-year-old half asleep. This has become our routine as of late as I’ve been home recovering from surgery and not having to rush to get up and ready for work. He drops her down next to me in all of her 52 pound 4-foot glory with her “blankie” and carefully selected stuffed animal and I pull her close to me to grab those 10 minutes of snuggle time before the always-rushed school morning routine begins.
Having just read about the Mom who is feeling nostalgic about sending her daughter off to college, I am so grateful for these moments with my first grader. I know they are fleeting. I study the profile of her nose and marvel at how it’s changed, I notice her top two permanent teeth that inch their way in bit by bit each day and look in awe at her long eyelashes that flap like a butterfly’s wings as she blinks away the bright light in the bedroom. I take in the fragrance of her hair that still smells strong of fruity conditioner from a previous washing.
The frustration of the night before has gone, naturally, because that’s how parenting a kid is. Your love is so big, so unconditional, that even though you HAVE to discipline and teach them right from wrong, and they make you crazy and hurt your feelings, the love supercedes it all. I think about my “morning nugget” and I hold on tightly – so tightly.