Friday, 3 August 2012

They grow up way too fast.


It's absolutely crazy how very little time we have with our kids while they are still kids.

You always hear about how the high school years are the best years of your life. I get it - no responsibilities, disposable income being actually disposable, friends being the centre of your universe, the warm nurturing cocoon of home and family to fall back on when you want or need it. But really? I don't know anyone whose teenage years weren't filled with angst, heartbreak, unnecessary drama and fear. And at that age, everything is still on a trajectory toward the future - "I can't wait to move out, I can't wait for more freedom, I can't wait for university, I can't wait for the next step."

Then there's the university years, that weird limbo between high school and real life, where you're living away from your parents for eight months then move back into your childhood bedroom for four; living in residence with hundreds of other horny, irresponsible kids or an apartment with someone you barely know, the safety net of "back home" always there where you can go and curl up for a weekend of much-needed nurturing; a four-year suspension of reality where the future is a vague, far-off notion and the present is so bizarre that you can't fully comprehend it.

And suddenly you're in your twenties, expected somehow to be a fully functioning adult with a clear comprehension of responsibility and how the world works. All of those things that you've always associated with adulthood are now available, but out of reach - you finally have a career and a real income, but it's nowhere near enough to finance the life you want right away; you have your own place, but you can't afford the kind of house you grew up in, the one that always featured in your vague fantasies about the future; you have freedom and independence, but the responsibilities that go along with it are enormous; and there's still that vague, unformed feeling in the back of your head that you're still waiting for something, you're not quite there yet. Because how do you make clear, definite arrangements for life when most of the aspects of that life have still not fallen into place? You know that you will one day have a family, get married and have children - but they're not here yet, so how do you organize your place in the world and how you fit into it when you don't know any of the particulars like when and where?

For me, it wasn't until I met and moved in with my now-husband that I finally had that sense that all plans moving forward were permanent. The home that we found, the roots that we put down, the way that we organized our lives - these were all choices that we could make with the sense that they were long-term decisions, plans for our future rather than just our present. Without this feeling of permanence in planning for the future - and I am very much a planner - I've never been fully able to enjoy or appreciate the present. The sense of freedom and satisfaction that comes when you can enjoy every aspect of your present because there's no niggling feeling in the back of your brain that this is just for now, just until the next step - it's indescribable.

But now that we have that feeling that we're definitely in the now, that we're where we're supposed to be and living our lives exactly the way we want to live them, there's that inevitable sense of impending loss, the fear of everything coming to an end. It's that same little let-down you feel at the end of every Christmas season, or when summer vacation ends, or when you're back home from a family holiday you've been planning for months. The expectation and anticipation, the excited planning and shopping and the joy of the actual event itself - there's always a little sense of loss when it's over, and the feeling that you don't want it to end but know it eventually has to.

That's where we feel like we are in our lives right now.

I believe that this, right now, is the best time of my entire life. When I am happy and comfortable in my own skin, with who I am as a person and the decisions I've made in life. When I enjoy what I do for a living and don't feel like it's just a stepping stone to the next big thing, to what I really want to do. When I love my home and don't feel like it's a starter, fine for now but not forever. And, most importantly, when my kids are in their growing-up years, when they're being kids and love me and need me and I get to watch them and help them learn and grow and become the little people - and eventually big people - they're going to be, when they're saying and doing things that amaze me a hundred times a day, when they want to tell me every little thought and dream that goes through their heads and every little thing that happens to them during the day, when they're learning new things every day and I'm learning so much about the world from the way they see it, when every moment is a memory in the making and I feel like I just want to hold on to it all forever.

I know this won't last forever, and I'm sure the next step will be wonderful too - when I can watch them growing independent and making decisions for their own future, when they go off to lead their own lives separate from the one tied to my husband and I and our family home, when I can talk to them as I would with other adults instead of as children - but I want their childhoods to last forever, and the time is going way too fast. How did my wee special firstborn little baby boy turn into this confident, athletic little eight-year-old guy, trying out for rep sports, reading Harry Potter books off my shelf, a crew of buddies following him around at school? How did Middle Child - Baby until his baby brother was born last year - my roly-poly, squishy little ball of smiles, turn into a great big boy of six who I can trust to watch and look after his baby brother with complete confidence while I shower? How is Baby - who, I swear, was born not five minutes ago - almost a year old already? Where did the time possibly go?

I'm trying to cherish every possible second of this time. I love the moments when my eldest still wants to snuggle, his long, skinny limbs all awkward as he tries to curl himself into my lap and we have long talks all about what's happening at school and the books that he's read and what's going on in his head. I love it when his brother holds my hand and asks a thousand and one questions about everything he sees and hears and wonders about the world. I cannot get enough of squishing my chubby little Baby and will do anything for that beautiful, dimpled smile or a big-bellied baby laugh. I'm trying to appreciate every moment.

There are absolutely days when I would do almost anything for fifteen minutes to myself. When my husband and I look at each other over the heads of our whining / sulking / screaming / crying / fighting brood of boys with wide eyes and wonder what happened. When we sit, at night, with a glass of wine after everyone's asleep and fantasize about retirement and travel and, well, a few hours alone together. But I wouldn't give up this time in our lives for anything.

And I'm trying hard not to spend this time fearing for its end - but time does keep inevitably ticking on, and these children simply grow up way too fast.


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