People say it all the time. The days are long but the years are short. I barely remember the day to day when my girls were babies, but I remember clawing my way through some of those days, surviving by telling myself that other mothers have been doing this for years, and if they could do it, I could too.
I’ve never been the most maternal person by nature. I tend to be fast paced, career-driven, impatient, and a little self-centered, but never more-so than before I had kids. Before kids life was all about how much I could accomplish in a 24-hour period, whether it be work, exercise, projects, errands, etc. I was a machine and I thought having a child would be something I could neatly tuck into that lifestyle. Boy was I wrong. Motherhood hit me like the mother load, and has broken me down and built me back up, all for the better.
I remember hauling the shin-knocking infant carrier into the doctor’s office waiting room (seems we were there more than the park or playground) and being completely in awe of another mom and her slightly older child. The kid had teeth! A full mouth of teeth! That mom survived teething. Multiple times! She looked reasonably sane sitting there, as far as I could tell, as her child, also looking reasonably sane, scurried back and forth between a fish tank and a table full of blocks. Huh. It could be done, I supposed. One day at a time. One sleepless night at a time. One doctor’s office visit at a time. I could do this.
But what I wasn’t counting on was what I’d miss about those long days and short years. Here are a few that have snuck up on me recently and caught me by surprise.
1. Tiny Coat Hangers. I just had to gather up all the tiny coat hangers in my house and stash them in the basement. Why? Because all my girls’ clothes are now so big that they slip right off of them. This may seems like a minor inconvenience; a part of seasonal cleaning. But the lump that formed in my throat as I moved from garment to garment, checking to see if the tiny hanger could be used – perhaps for the youngest child, perhaps if I zip the jacket – each one sliding off the tiny hanger, was enough to break a woman.
2. Sunday Socks and Smocks. Ah, the days when the kids did not have fashion opinions of their own. Their closets were filled with smocked and appliquéd clothing and their drawers were filled with monogrammed bloomers and ruffle socks. And while I encourage my kids in finding their own fashion voices, I wasn’t exactly prepared for those voices to emerge as early as they did. Now I have to worry about someone chastising my own fashion choices (“Mom, that’s a no…”) or worse, “borrowing” my Lululemon. Is it still called “borrowing” if you never see it again?
3. Tiny, Paper-Thin Fingernails. One day you are consulting every baby blog, your mom, your pediatrician, and the person working the Target check out line on how to clip your newborn’s fingernails without slicing that tiny finger in the process (that’s easy – just bite them) then you blink and you are polishing those same fingernails and those of her friends during a sleepover while they sing some some about someone named Kiki. (If you play it cool, perhaps they’ll teach you the dance that goes with it.)
4. The Swaddle. I can’t figure out what the best part of the swaddle is. Is it a baby, fresh from the bath tub, sweet smelling and sleepy, wrapped cozily in a swaddle like a tiny taquito? Or is it how they’d inevitably Houdini out of it in the middle of the night, emerging on the baby monitor all arms and legs and a little bit of a sweaty forehead, with the swaddling blanket twisted up in the corner of the crib?
5. Gummy Smiles. We all have things we can’t get enough of when it comes to babies. For some it’s the top of a sweet-smelling head, for others its the tip of the tiniest toes. For me, it’s the gummy smile. I melt over a tiny, laughing toothless smile.
6. Piggy Back Rides. It happens almost overnight. You go from hoisting your kid onto your hip in a single swoop, or bending down for them to jump on your back and popping right up to falling right down. My youngest fell asleep on the couch the other night and carrying her to her bed left me with neck pain for a week. When did she stop being little?
Well, in true motherhood fashion, I weathered all of those baby teeth coming in. Then I weathered them all falling out. The tooth fairy made her flight 20 times (with only one or two 10 p.m. stops at the ATM). And now we eagerly anticipate the the appointment at the orthodontist’s office. And while I don’t miss the sleepless nights of teething, I do miss that gummy smile. I just need to make sure to soak in every moment of the now, including nail painting to the soon-to-come braces smile. Because one day I’ll be missing those things, too.