Long days, short years


Enjoy it, because they grow up so fast.

Wait, did I just say that?

I hated when mothers said that to me when I was the exhausted mom of little kids. It sure doesn’t feel fast, I grumbled internally. And yet, here I am, gazing at the high school, wondering how we managed to travel the distance from swing set to graduation in the blink of an eye.

Our neighborhood high school is situated on the grounds of a large public park, along with a track, swimming pool, playground, soccer and baseball fields, and plenty of grass, trees, and open space. My son barely napped when he was a baby, so I spent many hours pushing him in the swings just so I could get a few minutes of peace.

Those were the days before smartphones, so I was surrounded by air and the sounds of dogs barking and parents cajoling toddlers and children squealing as they hurtled down the slide.

Sometimes, when we were there killing time on a weekday afternoon, the bells would ring and I’d catch sight of the high schoolers as they streamed out of the buildings, all gesticulation and exaggerated voices. They were another species. The idea that my infant son would, one day, resemble those impossibly tall, loud, independent creatures seemed outrageous.

Never gonna happen.

I mean, intellectually I understood it would happen. But the gut reality of it; him growing up, me with enough sleep and mental space…well, I couldn’t grasp it.

The days were long back then. And even though they’re the same 24 hours they always were, they’re not long anymore.

Update: Cathy left a comment reminding me that “The days are long but the years are short” is a line popularized by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, as one of her “secrets of adulthood.” I had forgotten about that! Thanks for the reminder, Cathy (and for your wisdom, Gretchen).

I love being the parent of teenagers. Christine and I recorded a podcast on the joy of parenting tweens and teens, because that story doesn’t get told enough.

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  • What a wonderful post. I felt the same way when you were a baby … I wish I could turn back the clock sometimes because you were so much fun. Today you are still great fun, but in a very different way. I love the way you are today, perhaps even more than at any other time in your life. I have a huge amount of respect for you: a marvelous mother, a very loving wife, a brilliant writer and a truly fabulous daughter.

  • It’s funny – I came across Gretchen Rubin’s “The days are long, but the years are short” when my oldest was 1 or 2, and it resonated IMMEDIATELY. And now that that boy is 14, I’m really feeling it! He’s across the country on a school trip right now, and even though it’s not his first overnight trip, I feel like I’m getting a taste of what it’s going to be like when he heads off to college. Which, even though it’s four years away, seems like tomorrow. It DOES help to know I’m not the only who feels this way 😀

  • The thing that is blowing my mind right now is that my daughter— the one girl among three boys—is a junior in high school. If she goes away to college, it’s just me and the fellas. Every day I hear all the details of her day and her classes and her social life, and I am going to miss that so much.

  • You are most DEFINITELY not alone, Cathy. Wow, it feels so good to reconnect like this!

  • Oh, I can imagine. I will say this: it’s a wonderful thing to notice how the family energy changes when a kid goes off to college. There’s the missing that person (for sure), but along with that there’s also this shifting as the rest of the family moves into that opened-up space. Also, food for thought: my friend’s daughter was the same way in high school. She’s now starting her second year of college out of state and she still calls and texts her mom all the details every day. fwiw I *love* how my relationship with my son has changed now that he lives far away. He’s not a “share every detail” person, never has been. But we talk regularly and I love these chats.

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