We have all heard it from the mouths of parents: Where has the time gone? Where did my baby go? How did she/he get so big?
These questions are often attached under photos posted of our little ones’ latest birthday, their first day of school, or eating macaroni by themselves with a spoon instead of wearing it on their face like a pasty powdered-cheese-and-butter beauty mask. Some of us probably roll our eyes and think, dear Lord, get over it…kids grow! So what?
So, why do we parents say those things?
Here’s my theory: when we look at our little rugrats, we see them as babies and we see them as adults, simultaneously.
We see the moment we found out we were going to be parents, whatever that might look like. We see the moment they came in to our worlds, the first time we held them: slimy and squirming, or swaddled and soft. We see them in tiny diapers and we see the first gummy, toothless smile. We see them sleeping with their fat arms and little fists balled up, raised above their heads. We see their first attempts at writing their names: shaky, crooked, and perfect.
We also see them grown. When they graduate, when they get their first job, when they move out, and when they may have their own families. Or, God forbid, when they might possibly move away from us. (Don’t worry, it’ll never happen, ever) We see them go through heart aches and disappointments, and we see them cry with happiness when they conquer giants. And we cry with them.
We see time slipping through our fingers every single day.
It’s like trying to collect all the sand on all the beaches with a fork and a bucket with a hole in the bottom. At some point, we just have to stop digging pointlessly and run our hands through these gorgeous minuscule pebbles, wonder at their warmth and softness, the sheer volume, and gaze at the eternal beauty across the water.
Perhaps that’s what parents are doing when we stand back and ask ourselves where the time has gone: we are trying to just let time happen. Maybe we are trying to bask in The Now, while attempting to let Yesterday just be.
We are trying, so hard.
And we don’t need to be parents to know that sometimes, going with the flow in life is tough, because we don’t know where it’s going to take us. We don’t know where the river ends. Every wave and ebb is new territory.
That’s why, when we snap that Back to School photo and wonder where our baby went, we have to take a breather. We sigh, we smile, and we send them off. We prepare ourselves for tomorrow, for when they come back, for next time.