It’s so cliche, I know, when we moms talk about how everything goes by “in the blink of an eye”. Just yesterday they were babies and we were wishing for just a little more sleep. Next, they were off to their first day of kindergarten (I’m one of those heartless moms who did not shed one tear as either of my kiddos went off to play on their new Kindergarten playground. They were happy. I was happier). Then, they turned 10- a big milestone for kids (and a poignant example of how old we’ve become).
But today. Today my baby nephew went off to college. COLLEGE!
I can hear him saying “Hi Newin Newin (MaryLynn)!” through his big front teeth, cobalt blue eyes and soft brown curls, at two years old. I remember how we laughed when he pronounced Popcorn “Hot porn”. He grew up smiling, always patient and careful. He could build impressive Lego structures and ride a two wheeler before the other kids. He played the piano beautifully, just one example of how he was good at everything he tried. He could shoot an arrow from a great distance through a series of strung balloons- all in one shot, and take his dad down during a demonstration of Krav Maga fitness. Suddenly he was 6’4″ and all muscle. All at once, he had a job, a car and a girlfriend. He graduated with honors and got a full ride to college… and today, that’s where he’s headed.
He’s all grown up. It happened in leaps and bounds. Big chunks of time broke off as I was turned the other way, busy in my own life. Sure, we celebrated every birthday and holiday, snuck into his prom to spy, and proudly shared pictures of the man he was becoming. But it hardly seems possible that the “childhood” part of his childhood is over.
My own childhood seemed to crawl along in slow motion for me, but a parental clock moves much more rapidly, seeming to lurch past days and weeks, bypassing special events and only pausing briefly for a few cherished photographs. As I lived it, the weeks dragged and weekends could not come soon enough. I never understood the phrase “Stop and smell the roses” in my youth. There was too much to do. Too many things to see and so many activities to attend. I wanted to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” like Thoreau advised (though without having to go live in the woods) but I wanted it NOW. I was always at the ready for the next phase- graduation, a career, marriage and a family. Now, on the other end of it, I wish more than anything that I’d inhaled a little more deeply as I raced through the garden.
But this thought of time passing too quickly never hit home until today. We watch baby videos and simultaneously relish the laughter of fun times past, while dreading the moments we close our eyes- knowing we’re going to miss it. We WILL miss this. I DO miss this and I’m not nearly through. My kids are still young. There’s still time. I just need to hug them a little tighter. Put books on their head as my mother used to do with me so that I’d stop growing so fast. I stare at them in their sleep and watch, in awe, when they’re awake. I know that tomorrow I will be wondering how my own babies could be heading off to college. I want to yell “Stop! Look around. Live this. Enjoy this. Walk slowly”.
So I send my sister a text. An email. I call her. Because I know that today is unbearable for her. The excitement and enthusiasm she’ll show for him as he heads off for this next adventure will be real, but beneath all that is a mom. A mom of that little blue eyed boy who used to hold her hand.