I have always been a really sentimental person. Anything that deals with the passage of time – lamenting how quickly the years go by or how fast children grow up – has brought me to tears since I was a child myself…The Giving Tree, cheesy commercials, growing-up montages in movies. I have never been able to handle it.
I have a sister who is ten years younger than I am, and I spent so many hours late at night as a child sad and worrying about how quickly she was growing up and calculating what age I would be at each of her age milestones.
It’s Gotten Worse
Needless to say, this difficulty with how fast things move and how quickly kids grow up has only intensified through motherhood. I have many middle of the night not-quite-clinical panic attacks over it. I then write long teary love letters to my children in the little journals we bought each of them when we found out I was pregnant. Going through their clothes to sort out what’ s too small gets me every time. I even had a good cry about my oldest child graduating from high school and moving away from home while he was still in utero.
So, I would love to be one of those moms who “laughs at the days to come” and rolls easily with the changes of seasons and stages, but I’m just not. I’m the blubbering mom with the tear-streaked face every first day of school. I’m the one who doesn’t want to delete a single photo and hangs on to baby clothes way too long.
This Week Feels Like a Major Milestone
Today marks ten years of motherhood for me. My oldest child turns 10 on August the 10th. And, let me just say this – I know all that stuff about how the true gift is that my children are healthy and growing and making each new birthday with joy and promise. It’s one of the ways that I shift my thinking when I get overwhelmed.
But the truth is that I do get overwhelmed. And these days, it’s been a lot more than usual even. That ten-year mark has somehow upped my sentimentality sensitivity even more. I’ve been waking up in the wee hours of the morning and crying and praying and swallowing down the lump in my throat and calming my breath so that I don’t hyperventilate.
Because, here’s the thing – even though my kids are suddenly the big kids at the park, the oldest kids among our current friends, and rapidly catching up to my own height and shoe size – their baby years seem SO close. I mean, I remember so many details from when they were 1 and 2 and 3 years old. It’s like I could just reach out and touch those days. I could still tell you details about their sleep cycles and funny phrases they said and what foods they wouldn’t eat.
At the same time, I know I won’t remember it all so vividly much longer, and everything in me just doesn’t want to let it go. I have LOVED watching these babies learn and grow and change. These years have included some of the most difficult moments of my life, and I wouldn’t want to relive them, really. At the same time, they’ve included some of the most beautiful and precious moments of my life, and I hate the feeling that it’s all slipping away in some way.
BUT, enough with the sentimentality, I did promise you some strategies for handling it, right? For any other teary-sentimental-timeslowdown mommas out there. Here’s what’s working for me…
1. Feel it.
Cry. Allow yourself to grieve that there is loss along with the growth. Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed by how my kids are taking childhood at high speed, my tendency is to distract myself – to get on the computer or eat a snack or brainstorm about business ideas. The feelings that can rush me at any moment seem so strong and scary. But, letting myself cry and acknowledge my sadness seems to help me in two big ways. First, it gets out the emotions that are building up so they don’t keep exploding at I opportune times (like 4 am). And second, in some way it helps me to be present with the age and stage of my kids right now- which is what I really want. Avoiding the feelings seems to disconnect me from my children even more. Allow yourself to have a good cry, to look through the picture albums, to remember your favorite stories. You’ll feel better after you do.
2. Choose gratefulness.
My sadness over my babies growing up is usually piggybacked with an intense feeling that the present moment is going to pass too quickly – adding a twinge of sadness even to the joy of what we are experiencing now.
When I choose gratefulness in the moment – either aloud or making a list in my head – I shift out of sadness. I can enjoy the moment (like all those older moms are always telling me to do). The sad and overwhelmed thoughts are bound to come, but following them with thoughts of gratefulness for how good it is right now calm the frantic feelings and remind me of the goodness I walk in every day.
3. Accept the Stage You’re In.
My children need me to love them and embrace them how they are today, in this moment. They love the stories I tell them of funny things they said or did when they were littler, but they need my connection and emotional support right now.
I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but because of my strong feelings and my difficulty with the passage of time – I can sometimes want to go numb or check out. I think ridiculous thoughts like “they’re bigger now, they probably just want me to leave them alone and give them some space.” I don’t know if that’s true with your kids, but with mine it almost never is. They want ME. They want me to SEE them in their struggles and joys and be present with them through it.
Our kids need us to engage and connect deeply at every phase in their lives – though it may take different forms at different times. They need to know that they’re loved in that crazy, eyes-filled-with-tears, I’d-do-anything-for-you sort of way that only we can do. And even though they’ve lost their chub and their funny ways of saying certain words and they don’t sit in our laps much anymore, that momma’s heart that sees them as our precious babies and loves them through life’s trials and disappointments is so important, right?
Accept who they are in this moment and love them with the depth of all the moments that came before. And, maybe – just maybe – we’ll be able accept the change that is inevitable with tenderness and love and strength and courage all at the same time.