So how can I burst with excitement for my kids -- proud of their accomplishments, thrilled for their new adventure and all the good stuff awaiting them -- while feeling an emptiness and sadness, the depths of which I never imagined?
As parents, we do our best to plan for memorable moments. To create and capture the perfect photo opps. We watch as the baby fat fades and the school years pass, and we want to make it all count. Every second. Every moment. But why are we trying so hard?
My kids ran into that playroom and straight for that ball pit. We stood by the window for a moment, watching quietly, a smile on our faces. Then we realized we only had an hour to shop in peace and were wasting it at that window. So we slowly walked away, shopping list in hand.
There is no greater joy then seeing my daughter thrive. She grows week-to-week, day-to-day; this is what a parent wants. But there is a part of me that wishes I could hold her like I did when she was a tiny newborn. I want to slow things down, even just for a moment.
It's not that I don't whole-heartedly believe those statements, and I am sure before I know it, I'll have a teenager in high school, but the first thought that came to my mind was, cherishing every moment is hard.
Putting away the jellies of course feels like waving goodbye to summer, to warm weather, light clothes and celebrations of her first birthday and baptism. But the looming chore of putting the jellies away also reminds me of something that happened last year.
In the early days, I'd have a mug of coffee on one side of the keyboard, a manual breast pump on the other. I would get up at dawn, as it was the best time for pumping and writing. One activity sustained my girls; the other, me.
It's easy to lose perspective in the day-to-day chores and moments of parenting that what you are really doing isn't so much about childhood, or even about high school or college. What you are doing is getting someone ready to be an adult -- and to live a life that is theirs, not yours.
I want you to know that I took our talk to heart and that you're never a bother. You know I love you, and what we have is still special. I just have to work on showing it a little more, and a little better.
Parenthood just keeps getting harder and harder and I'm not sure how prepared I am for the James Dean portion of the gig. I have no doubt in my mind that when he's 16, I'll be dying for the days of Thomas the Tank Engine and his insipid brethren.
If by age 9, my daughter already has a Kindle Fire, access to an iPad and has been to New York City twice and on and on, what is left for her to experience when she is older? Am I somehow setting her up for crushing disappointment?
My sons take their seats, the motor kicks on and the swings start turning to the right in a soft, careful circle. It is their spotlight. It is as wide as a slow dance and twice as wild. Their hearts beat accordingly. They pass me by again and again. The only thing that changes is the calendar.
You've stepped on one too many Legos. You've exhausted yourself trying to convince an illogical toddler to do something life sustaining, like eating. You've tried repeatedly and then failed to soothe a crying baby, a tantruming toddler or a neglected partner.