"I wish he would stay this way forever."
"I can't believe how big she's getting!"
Do you ever think any of those things about your kids?
I never think those things.
I have a relative who always drops those cliches on my kids' heads. "They grow too fast," she always says. I always reply, "no they don't."
They grow just right. They grow a little every day. I've never understood the sentiment that wants to freeze them in time. It's selfish, isn't it? To preserve them in amber so that I can admire their dimpled elbows and funny pronunciations? I want them growing every day, because if they aren't, what horrible disease has befallen them?
I feel similarly about my own age. I'm 33 years old. I don't regret the numbers as they ascend. I don't romanticize my youth or demonize my aging. I believe I'm only as old as I feel, and I feel tired, but I don't feel old. I look forward to my birthdays. I enjoy celebrating them, even as I acknowledge another year gone by.
And yet, I still manage to forget I'm an adult. Maybe it's because the voice inside my head stopped aging around 19, but I received two pieces of news this week that stopped me in my thought-tracks: don't these things happen to my parents' friends? Surely these are older people's problems. Surely I am not that old.
A woman I know is undergoing brain surgery this week to explore and ideally remove an entwined brain tumor. She has a family. She has kids my kids' ages. She's not old. And we learned this weekend that a couple we know has decided to separate. Their boys are exactly my girls' ages. We haven't watched a divorce within our own peer group yet. Maybe, just once in a while, it isn't so bad to wish for time to be frozen in the past.
I think that, but just for a minute. I wish both of those families painless journeys. I'm keeping them close in my heart. Their news was hard to hear but I think of the beauty in time marching ever forward. I think of my own happy almost-nine-year marriage, of the lung tumor whose removal my husband overcame, of his clean bill of health. I think of my four-year-old who asked me last week, "how do you say you're starving but for thirsty instead of hungry?" and after I answered her, approached her teacher with "could I have some water? I'm parched." I think of my two-year-old who this past weekend pronounced the "r" in "orange" for the first time ever, and who sounded like such a big girl in doing so that my heart momentarily forgot to beat. I think of my four-month-old who almost figured out rolling over, but gets stuck on his belly because he doesn't know how to pull his arm out from under himself.
I can't wish for time to stand still because I can't deny him the chance to figure that out and tumble across the floor. But tacitly defending the march of time is so much easier in the context of a baby's milestones than a family's heartbreak. I have to remind myself that part of aging is facing our fears and our sorrows, lending our support, and firmly believing in stories with happy endings.
(Photo credit: Neal)
This is an original DC Metro Moms Blog post. Robin blogs at The Not-Ever-Still Life and tweets @noteverstill, and in both places she'd tell you that she'd prefer to think that cancer and divorce happen to much older people.