This is how quickly it goes…

This is how quickly it goes…

Not at 2 a.m. At that time of the night, two weeks in, time stands still. The small person gnawing at my nipple is red and wiggly and insatiable – and awake. “Is it 2 a.m. again,” I wonder. “Or still?” “Is it still that other 2 a.m. when I was rocking in a chair or walking around the living room? It can’t be.” Two a.m. is a good time to cry, so I do and I think that surely by morning I will be dead – from exhaustion, from confusion, from hunger, from love.

But then suddenly I have a hard time remembering the last time I was awake at 2 a.m. Or the last time I sat in the rocking chair – now holding stuffed animals and books and laundry. Or the weight of the small body in my arms – now all long limbs and muscle and showing off daring jumps from my lap into the world. Nipples are healed, the heart is full, the hunger satisfied. Nights are quiet again.

This is how quickly it goes…

Not on my first day back to work. That day lasted at least 72 hours if not more. How long did I sit in my car in the daycare parking lot – a few minutes or days? – crying and convincing myself that this is OK, that everyone goes through this, that it will get easier. It’s unimaginable how, but somehow I put on a suit in the morning, and makeup, and grown-up shoes, while also remembering to pack diapers, pump enough milk, pack extra clothes, his lovey, his binky, his bottles – like preparing for war. “I can’t possibly do this every morning,” I think as I reapply mascara and wonder whether I can get away with wearing sunglasses at the office all day long to hide my cried-out eyes.

The day my toddler is too busy to say good-bye in the morning is a beautiful day. I watch him run off with his friends, his blond curls bouncing on his head, his giggle filling the room and my head. I hold back the urge to run after him for a hug and a kiss. I wipe away a single tear as I get back in the car – not out of sadness, just to mark the passage of time. No need for new mascara or sunglasses. I turn off the ABC song on the radio and switch to the news. I have a faint memory of that other morning a few years ago and I think “nah, it wasn’t that bad…”

This is how quickly it goes…

A break on the big boy potty can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 days. There is so much to do – explore body parts, play with the toilet seat, experiment with a mixture of water and toilet paper, take off all clothes, and explore spray patterns on the wall.

As I sit just outside the door – “no, I am a big boy, I can do it all by myself!” I was told some 5-10 minutes ago – I think about the long, lanky body sitting on the potty and how it used to be round and fleshy and pink. He fit on a changing table with room to spare, his wrinkled legs drawn up to his chest like he was still in the womb. Sure, the diapers were a pain, but those times were also so intimate. It was a time to tickle feet and belly, to gently massage little arms and legs, to coo, to make silly faces, to sing songs about the diaper monster.

“Mama! Wipe my butt!” I finally get the all-clear to enter the bathroom and think “well, this is still intimate, in a business-transaction type of way.” When my little boy gives me that look as I make up a song about the toilet paper monster I know that I just lost some of my cool-factor.

This is how quickly it goes…

So many firsts and lasts. His last meal in the high chair. His first time getting dressed by himself. The last time he drank milk from a bottle on my lap. His first tantrum. His last onesie. His first recognizable drawing. The last time he needed help with his shoes.

It’s hard to imagine how many things can be lost and gained in just a few years. At times the gains seem painful and the losses are daily. Other times there is so much joy with each loss and gain that I am convinced that this surely is the last and best thing that will ever happen to me.

It never is. The next day something new happens – maybe just a small tremor of a change, maybe something earth-shattering. I try so hard to commit to memory the day, the time, the event, the change. As if remembering those details would somehow slow time itself, would make him stay a little boy. Of course I know that the change is inevitable. I know that he is already on his way to becoming whatever fate has in store for him – a firefighter, an astronaut, a construction worker, a daddy, a diver, a knight. This is how it should be.

But when he forgets for a moment that he is a “big boy” and slips his hand into mine or twirls my hair absent-mindedly or needs help with PJs, I quietly think – “thank God, nothing has changed for this one moment.”

I hold on to it because it all goes too quickly.

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