When I was a kid, I remember rolling my eyes at something my parents said. Well, I’m sure they’d say that I rolled my eyes at many things they said, but I thought that this sentiment was particularly eye-roll-worthy: “The older you get, the faster time goes. And when you have kids, it really flies.”
I couldn’t understand it. I was a goody-goody who loved school, but still, the school year lasted forever. And summer? It was months long! There was all the time in the world to play with friends, explore our little backyard, lounge around the house and watch cartoons, and get into all sorts of trouble with my brother.
Were they nuts? Time stretched out for eons. They were obviously doing something wrong. Or they were just weird because, well, they were old and they were parents.
Oh, to be 7 again. Or 17.
Of course, now that I’m a parent, time is not only slipping by—it’s racing away faster than a toddler who doesn’t want to leave the park.
I can’t get through my to-do list. I’m always running late to, well, everything. I’m bouncing from unexciting kid’s meal to unexciting kid’s meal. I have a million things that I want to write for this site and not enough time or energy to sit down and write them all. I always put my non-family-related needs and wants on the back burner until I literally can’t ignore them anymore. And while I am spending quality time with the kids, it never feels like enough. Nothing ever feels like enough.
Let’s add to that that I feel like I blinked and suddenly my son is somehow now 5. And my baby girl? She was just born…18 MONTHS AGO. How is that possible? I was just pregnant, wasn’t I?
OK. Deep breath.
In doing that, we are wishing away our lives—and all of those amazing moments that make up our lives.
First of all, Mom and Dad: You were right. (Don’t gloat. That’s not nice.) Still, I think it’s worse these days. Slowing down seems impossible because we’re caught in this weird cult of perfect parenthood that didn’t really exist when our parents were doing this.
Second, every parent on the planet is in the same boat. Time goes fast. So fast. There is so much to do all the time, but we all want to slow down so that we’re making the most of out of the wonderful moments—and be present when they’re happening.
And right there, in that sentence, is the kernel of the secret to slowing down time.
We need to stop and soak in where we are RIGHT NOW.
We need to stop waiting for nap time. We need to stop rushing through the kids’ nighttime routine. We need to stop trying to cram our entire lives into the three kid-free hours before we close our eyes. We need to stop wishing the week away so that the weekend gets here faster and so that things can be easier, better, more relaxing, more fun.
Because in doing that, we are wishing away our lives—and all of those amazing moments that make up our lives.
We could miss a bright smile from the toddler, who is beyond thrilled that someone finally understands that she’s been saying, “Up, please.”
We could miss a sweet moment between siblings, when an older brother tells his younger sister how proud he is of her for doing a good job.
We could miss the joy of breastfeeding, which feels never-ending when you’re doing it 12 times a day…but which will be over forever before you know it.
We could miss when a child tells us something significant about his day and confides his fears.
We could miss that silly moment of getting into the toddler’s crib with the toddler and the preschooler, turning off all the lights except for the one in the mobile and building a makeshift fort with a comforter.
We could miss all of it…and the thing is, we’ll never get it back.
I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom here, but our kids are growing up. While we celebrate their small victories and their independence, we also simultaneously mourn the beautiful moments that we’ve taken for granted. As the old adage says: You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Sure, some moments feel eternal—like when your child is having tantrums or refusing to go to bed—but even those moments pass before you know it. (If you’re in the middle of one of those, they really do. I promise.)
While we celebrate their small victories and their independence, we also simultaneously mourn the beautiful moments that we’ve taken for granted.
I’m not saying that we should ignore every other thing in our lives, because obviously, that’s not possible or smart. We’d all be fired, broke, starving and unbathed if we did that. (Er, when was the last time I took a shower?)
But slowing down and paying attention to the little things on a daily basis will make a big difference.
Like saying yes to that snuggle.
Saying yes to pretending to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle while you unload the groceries.
Saying yes to dismantling the couch (yet again) to build a spaceship.
Saying yes to helping in the kitchen, even though you know it will take a little longer and make clean-up a little more annoying.
Saying yes to reading one more book.
Saying yes to any number of the million other requests that come your way from you kids each and every day.
The bottom line is this: The more we say yes, the more we will enjoy our children and the happier we will be. The more we stop rushing toward something else, start slowing down and begin looking at what’s right here, right now, the more present we will be. And in doing that, the slower time will go—in the best way possible.
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