The picture currently on the desktop of my computer is of my two older children.
My daughter, the oldest, is about 2 years old and is lying on a pillow next to her 4-month-old baby brother. Her light brown hair is wispy and her arms have that chubby toddler look to them.
My son is wearing a blue onesie, his tongue is sticking out, and he has that funny, unfocused wide-eyed look that only babies get (probably thanks to the camera hovering over his face). The picture is already five years old.
When my kids were very little, during what I called my baby years because it felt like I had one baby after another during the course of five years, people often commented on the same thing: Enjoy this phase, it’ll go by fast.
Caught up in diaper changing, waking up multiple times a night and not being able to leave home without a giant bag of supplies, I thought to myself, “Enjoy this? I’m exhausted – I can’t wait till the day they can all walk by themselves!”
Don’t get me wrong, I love my children and loved them when they were very little, too. However, I still recall the work of keeping an eye on a baby nonstop just in case he crawled too close to the steps or put some random piece of trash in his mouth. Or juggling a car seat and a toddler who liked to run away from me at the park (my daughter did this all the time!). Or the effort it took to get three kids in and out of the car when none of them knew how to buckle themselves.
Today, though, I’m feeling a little more sentimental and am beginning to understand what people mean when they remind me to enjoy this phase. Seeing a picture of my daughter at 2 years old is a reminder that we can never go back in time. I will never get to spend time with her at that point in her life again. That infant/toddler phase is almost over for our family now that my youngest is a few months shy of turning 4. I see our old pictures and think, wow, they were so little (and so cute). They’re not even very big now!
What will I be thinking in 10 years?
Naturally, time will keep passing. I’ll keep trying to remember to enjoy watching my kids grow, but inevitably I’ll always look back and be amazed at how quickly they change.
Just this weekend, we took the kids on a bike ride, and I thought about how often my husband and I looked forward to being able to have outings like that.
Well, here we are at this point in time. Can we step back and appreciate it the way we ought to?
Jen Kayton is a freelance writer and mother of three children. She also works at Colorado State University. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.