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11/18/2013 12:51 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Tell Me How Beautiful It Is to Watch Them Fly

I'm holding three tiny hands, alternating walking with sometimes sprinting and rare moments of complete stillness.

On a crooked road, jagged with rocks, hazardous with patches of fog and entire stretches of darkness.

We are headed toward a cliff.

And with each step, I tell myself, Enjoy this. Try to enjoy this. They said to enjoy this.

It doesn't get better than this.

Every chance I can, I stop to look at these three, the ones the tiny hands belong to. I try to soak it in. I try to take snapshots with my mind. I prolifically fire off snapshots with my camera. I document. I save. I run my finger over the top of their noses and down to the tips of their lips as they sleep, trying to memorize their soft silhouette.

I get frustrated, trying to keep them on this crooked road. I lose my cool. I hide in bathrooms. I scream. At them. I feel guilty. That cliff gets closer.

Enjoy this.

I breathe, and I regroup. I forgive myself and we are carried on, against our will somedays, closer to the cliff's edge.

I dread the cliff's edge, when I'll be forced to let go of those three tiny hands.

***

This is the best way I can describe how motherhood feels to me most days.

The feeling is magnified now that I have a little chunk of baby love escorting me everywhere I go. He is that fleeting moment in time. He represents everything that slips away so fast.

Parents, grandparents and great-grandparents have all stopped me to tell me how precious he is. To ask for the pleasure of touching his feet, rubbing his cheek, taking him in in this sliver-of-a-piece-of-a-moment-in-time.

"Enjoy this time. It goes so fast," they say. And I know, truly, that each and every one of them has meant well. I know that as they say that, they are transported back to that time they were also walking toward their own cliff, holding other tiny hands that once relied on them for everything.

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Sometimes, these comments from parents of older children can cause parents of younger children and babies guilt, annoyance and make us feel pressured despite their intentions. ARE WE NOT ENJOYING THIS ENOUGH?

How, how, how do we become better at that? What does Pinterest say? Maybe we can make another scrapbook, take more pictures, more videos, stop yelling. Oh God, we should stop yelling completely, shouldn't we? We are not enjoying this enough because sleep deprivation and poop and tantrums are not things people generally enjoy. But maybe we should?

Maybe if we just tried to enjoy things more, the walk toward the cliff would take longer... we won't have to let go of those tiny hands so soon.

Are we monsters for not enjoying all of this? No. And I don't think most of the people who remind us to "enjoy this time" mean to imply that.

This time -- the time we are responsible for holding tiny hands -- does go fast. This much I know, after feeling that punch of disbelief in the gut while walking my oldest into his kindergarten classroom this year.

So, when people tell me, "Enjoy this time. It goes so fast," I try to remember that is a truth. And while it's SUPER annoying to hear when I'm wrestling a 2-year-old into a bathroom stall and bribing her to poop on a potty, it's a reminder I try to take to heart, as Glennon from Momastery puts it, when Kairos time allows:

Then there's Kairos time. Kairos is God's time. It's time outside of time. It's metaphysical time. It's those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day. And I cherish them. - "Don't Carpe Diem"

The problem with these well-meaning reminders is that they instill a sense of dread in me. When this time is gone, and we get to the edge of the cliff and I have to let go, is the best of it really behind me? What happens at the edge of that cliff?

They tell me to enjoy this walk, they don't tell me what to do when it's over.

I need to hear that this walk can be lovely. And that this walk can be hard. Reminders to try to enjoy it, to try to take it in, to consciously stop sprinting, are good to hear from time to time.

But I also need to hear that my life isn't over when we get to the edge of the cliff. Some days it feels like when we arrive there, and I let go of those tiny hands, I'm going to fall and have only the moments I managed to cherish to cushion me.

So remind me to "enjoy this time," and that the day I let go of them will be here all too soon. But then?

Tell me how beautiful it is to watch them fly.

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