We’ve all said it about our children or someone else’s- “They grow up too fast.”
I have to admit that I truly didn’t know what that meant until I had children of my own. Children of friends and family, not to forget my own past students have always been indications that time passes really quickly, however, I believe that once you have children the meaning of that common saying changes. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is that becomes different, and I think I finally figured it out…for myself anyways. The main change is the fact that we become less self-centered. We become less aware of our own mortality and more aware of the fact that we bring upon ourselves the responsibility of raising another human being. It becomes less about “us” and more about “them.”
Parenting is a HUGE responsibility and it doesn’t come with a manual. I think every single parent out there is bound and determined to not repeat the same mistakes they felt their own parents made with them and then the parenting circus begins, reality slaps them in the face, and we all become a little more sympathetic to how our parents raised us. We allow our own parents to become less supernatural beings who should have known better, allow them to become more human, and allowed to have made mistakes…maybe even a lot of them.
Once our own first child is born, we automatically begin to realize that someone other than ourselves is just as important, if not more important. We begin feeling less concerned about certain things that were so important to us in our daily lives before children. Maybe that’s doing our hair everyday, putting on our makeup to hide those imposing wrinkles, owning a house before a certain age, making a certain income by a certain age, buying that new shade of lipstick or those new leggings, keeping that six pack, seeing the newest movie out, etc. Now let’s not get this confused with the importance of taking care of our own personal needs. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the prior need to do ‘all the things’ first before we’re too “old” to do it or before feeling like we’ve missed out.
As my birthdays come and go, I become less aware of my own mortality and that feeling of getting old. 30 hit and I went “oh my gosh, what happened?! I’m 30 already!! I had so much more planned for my 20’s and have little to show of those hopes and dreams!” But as the years continue to pass, it’s when my childrens’ birthdays pass, special events pass, or one of those moments when I look at one of my children and all of a sudden see a grown up hit that I begin to panic. I begin to second guess myself as a parent and become obsessively concerned about whether I filled those years with happiness, took them to the places I should have, let them experience what I wanted them to experience, taught and demonstrated good habits, and taught them the basics of what they should know and why. Did I love them enough, hold their hands enough, sleep with them at night enough, carry them enough, read to them enough?- because we all know that that day will come where they won’t want to be carried, have their hand held, be slept with at night, and it will all come crashing down on us that we are not going to get those moments back and that they grew up way too fast. It’s not a realization anymore of my own mortality, but the fact that I cannot get those first, middle, and end moments back with my children once they past.
Sometimes we realize too late that we cannot undo something or try again. Our children just grow up too darn fast for us to fix things and have a do-over. We’re supposed to be shaping these human beings into happy and brilliant future contributors to society and that future creeps up on us way too quickly once we’re worrying about someone else’s life in our own hands vs solely our own lives. Who do we have to blame for this? Well…we try to blame our parents (as previously mentioned often too much) because after all, they were who set examples for us, but otherwise we have only ourselves to blame and certain life experiences that are out of our control. When we throw the lives of growing and developing children into the mix that’s huge weight to bear on top of ours in what we thought we’d have a lifetime to handle. What is important throughout this realization process, is that we praise ourselves for realizing it all in the first place and that we adjust our parenting sails accordingly.
When those second, third, or several other siblings are born, we think we’ve got this handled and that it’s a do-over in a sense but again, we how quickly realize that holy heck, it’s just another circus with new acrobats and animals who are completely different from the first and require us to be flexible and have super powers just to get through the day. No matter how much experience we have under our belts, I believe that our children will always leave us with the feeling that they grow up too fast.
Would I change this realization for the world? Never. That being said, my children are only 2 and 3 and I’m terrified of what the next decades will bring if I feel so paranoid already. Maybe ask my again in 10 years! Ha! Like the saying “they grow up too fast”, I also believe that once you have a child of your own, our ability to love transforms into something completely different. I don’t have the words to describe that love however, I believe that these quotes from Agatha Christie and Debra Ginsberg, shared by “becoming” say it best for both mothers AND fathers. This love is why it’s so hard to let go of those firsts and lasts, along with everything in between.
In closing, love your children as much as you can, soak up and be present in the memories and moments as if they won’t happen again, go easy on yourself as a parent because we aren’t perfect and never will be, forgive your parents for certain things from you childhood (and maybe even let them know) because after all, life is too short and just like we ourselves did, our own children really do grow up too fast.