Today is another milestone day in our family.
Elayna, my youngest child, my baby forever, is thirteen today. Which means I am officially the mother of one teenager and two legal adults (Shelbie is 18 and Tim will be 21 in March). All of which totally boggles my mind.
Of my three kids, Elayna is the most like me, and we are so very close. But she is smarter, and more confident, and just so much more awesome than I could ever be. I have been so blessed with these kids of mine.
I get really sentimental on these milestone days. I love the ages they are now, truly I do. I connect with them on a different level, especially the oldest two. It’s amazing, and I truly cherish our relationships.
But what I wouldn’t give to go back in time, even just for a day. I so loved the toddler years, particularly 18 months old till about 3 years old. They are simply perfectly precious to me. I once told their pediatrician that I wish I could freeze them at that age. He said he thought the freezing would be easy, but the thawing would be problematic….
If I could go back in time, I would probably do much of what I actually did do with them every day, back then. But more of it, with more patience, less distractions, and to the exclusion of anything else. I would soak up every second.
If I had that extra time-warp day, I would get down on the floor and play with them, instead of cleaning, reading books, watching TV or talking on the phone. I would color with them, and draw for them. Tim especially loved for me to draw for him. He seemed to think I was Van Gogh, I guess. He’d hand me a piece of paper and say “Mama, draw Barney.” Or a cat. Or an airplane, or a dog, or a tree, or a Power Ranger…. and I tried. He never complained; he just happily colored the the picture I drew.
We would watch Toy Story, or Big Comfy Couch, or Elmo a dozen times, instead of half a dozen.
We would play with baby dolls, and put them in their doll strollers and push them around. We’d play-cook in their toy kitchens. Shelbie loved to feed her babies. We’d play with cars and Pokemon.
I would play outside with them, even if it was hot, or cold, or even if it was raining. Splashing in puddles is a blast. I’d splash in puddles all day if they were toddlers again. That’s what baths are for!
We would catch caterpillars, frogs, crickets and turtles. I would answer the endless “What’s that?” and the “But WHY?” questions with as much patience as humanly possible.
We would paint and play with play-dough and make huge messes. When we were done, I would hose them down. Messy houses can be cleaned up after they’re in bed. But there are no time machines.
We would go to the park and stay until they were so exhausted they couldn’t slide down one more slide or spin on one more merry-go-round. I would push them on the swings hundreds of times (Elayna loved the swings the most).
Then we would go home, and catch fireflies (Tim called them “flashlight bugs”) and keep them in a jar. We’d build a fire and make s’mores and a hug, sticky mess.
I would let them stay in the bath – a bubble bath, of course – until they were all wrinkled up like little raisins. I would let them splash all they wanted, and I’d clean up the water later.
At bedtime, I would curl up in bed with them and read books, like I always did. But I would read as many stories as they asked for, over and over again. I would sing as many songs as they requested. I would sing You Are My Sunshine until my voice was gone. I would read Love You Forever, even though it makes me cry every time. I would forget about the dishes waiting to be washed and the laundry needing to be folded. I would watch them sleep, and memorize every freckle, every eyelash, every dimple, and the way their little ears and toes looked back then.
Maybe I would need a little more than one day…..a week, perhaps?
I would hug and kiss them a million times, instead of only half a million. I would tell them I love them a billion times, instead of a million. I would take more pictures. I would write more things down. I would blog (I didn’t have internet access at home until after Elayna was born).
I would do all the things that I actually did do with my kids every day, but I would do it for longer, and not be rushed, or distracted. I would be fully present. And I would soak it all up and cherish it, with the knowledge that the years fly by at a speed that you can’t even wrap your head around.
If your kids are still little, do me a favor….soak it up. Be present. At least carve out some time, each day, to be right there in that moment, instead of worrying about the bills and the chores. Play. Have fun. You will never, ever regret it.
For the parents with older children: what would you do with that one more day (or week)?