Finding five minutes

“Mommy, are we late?”

IMG_0068This is a pretty typical question my daughters ask me as they pile into the minivan and get situated in their carseats. And, unfortunately, too often the answer is “Yes.” It’s not intentional – most days we are running on time until life suddenly happens – a baby diaper blow out, an indecipherable toddler tantrum, a “big girl” meltdown over a seemingly harmless issue – and we go from mostly on time to most certainly late.

Teaching punctuality is one of those things that I think is a valuable life lesson for my kids. It teaches respect, responsibility and, most simply, time management. However, that also contradicts one of the great parenting liberties we have. Up to now, the concept of time has been entirely in our favor as parents. “Five minutes” is the most vague and open ended concept in our methods. At times, five minutes really does mean five minutes. 300 seconds. A small period of time in which to complete a task. However, more often five minutes is used as a theoretical – it can mean thirty seconds or it can mean fifteen real minutes. Since our kids have no concept of time, we can use the “five minute warning” as it benefits us.

However, that is soon changing. Our oldest is starting to understand time and the gig might be up. And, I’m realizing this might not be the worst thing. While I will miss being able to give a blanket time warning, having my kids understand the difference between 5 minutes and 35 minutes may help us contextualize our family’s schedule and what can be done in an allotted period of time.

The more that I think about time, though, the more I realize that it’s not just about the five minute warnings and understanding of the big hand and little hand on a clock (I mean reading the numbers on the iPhone lock screen…). Time alludes us. I swear it was just yesterday that I took the pregnancy test that changed our lives forever – that turned us from newlyweds to soon to be parents. And not much longer after that our first daughter, then our second, then our third, was born. How did that happen so quickly? Where did the time go?

My kids can’t understand the true passing of time yet, and I am so thankful for that. Our oldest daughter told me yesterday “when I grow up, I’m going to be a mommy and live in your house so we can always be together.” While a cute idea she will likely not follow through on, this statement gave me pause as I imagined what that will look like. If five years have gone by this quickly, what will the next twenty five look like. Will they also be a blur of memories and moments frozen in time? Will I look back at today and think “just yesterday my kids were babies?”

Proof of time going too quickly. My oldest trick or treating for the first time, and this year.

Proof of time going too quickly. My oldest trick or treating for the first time, and this year.

Time is of the essence. Time flies when you’re having fun. Time is on your side. Time heals all. So much of what we do and say is wrapped up in the theoretical and practical application of time. And, yet, most days all I want to do is speed time up so that the meltdowns and chaotic schedules turn to quiet slumber, and simultaneously slow time down to live in the moment and not let my kids grow up too fast. The paradox of time is overwhelming.

So, for now, I think I’ll pour myself another cup of coffee while the baby naps and the older girls play cooperatively together. I think I have, oh, maybe five minutes…

Finding milestone moments

cold morningThe exact text message I sent to my husband this morning read, “Holy *#%@! Our baby is going to elementary school!” That’s because this morning I registered our oldest child to start on her journey of public education beginning next August. The required precision of paperwork and orderly fashion of lines in the registration process were overshadowed by the sheer magnitude of today’s notable milestone. And in just a few short months, today will be overshadowed by the first day of school.

In truth, most days have some sort of milestone. While the “big” ones are easily noted and just as easily remembered – first giggle, first time rolling over, first tooth, first steps, and so on – I’m finding that there are milestones even in the most mundane moments. Whether it’s the first time she dressed herself, or first time she cleaned up her toys without being asked, or the first time she spelled her name, each of these moments got flagged in my head as an important “first” in her maturation and in the development of her independence.

One of the mantras that I remind myself of daily is that parenthood is fleeting – as soon as you adjust to one thing, that changes and something else reveals itself. While I thought that would end during the infant stage, it has continued to prove true. After all, if life is a journey and not a destination, it’s inevitable that there will be milestones every step of the way.

Even so, today was a big one. Signing up for elementary school was both invigorating and terrifying. How did time already go by so quickly? And how much faster is it about to go? When I told my daughter I’d signed her up for school today, she said to me, “First I go to school, then I go to college, then I get a job, get married and become a mommy just like you.” While her overly simplified view of the journey is absent of an actual understanding of the timeframe associated with it, the summary of the next 20 years stopped me in my tracks. She’s right – time is about to fly by even faster than it already has and if we don’t appreciate each of the moments and each of the milestones, they’ll pass us by just as quickly as they arrived.

I wish I could say I was good about tracking them. When I found out I was pregnant with our oldest, I kept a detailed journal of my entire pregnancy and her first year of life. With my second, I started a journal half way through the pregnancy and kept it through most of her first year, more or less. And now, with less than 4 weeks to go before my due date for baby number three, I figure that tomorrow is as good a day as any to start writing in the journal. (Insert birth order joke here.)

It’s a challenging balance – how do you find time to honor the important moments and actually live them? And as life gets busier and the moments multiply, how do we ensure they don’t just pass us by? What do you do to honor, celebrate and remember milestone moments?

Finding time to smell the roses


A rose is still a rose

When I was five years old, my parents and I went to the beach for a weekend of fun in the sun. We built sand castles, splashed in the waves and went for long walks in search of the perfect seashell. As we headed back toward our umbrella and blanket after one particular walk, I ran ahead of my parents – wind in my hair, sand between my toes and bathing suit riding up just enough to bear a striking resemblance to the Coppertone baby. My mom yelled after me to stop and head back in their direction. As I approached the spot where my mom was standing, she pointed down at a beautiful pink seashell and said to me “if you’re always running ahead, you won’t have time to see what you’re missing.”

Amen, mama. You speak the truth. That moment is frozen (cue the chorus to “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” here – you’re welcome) in time for me and her words often echo through my mind (as do other words she’s told me, but these are the ones that stand out). As I run through daily life – from the mad dash out the door each morning, to the nightly question of “what’s for dinner,” to the inevitable bedtime battle, I try to remember what my mom (in her infinite wisdom) said to me that day. “If you’re always running ahead, you won’t have time to see what you’re missing.” In other words, stop and smell the roses.

eden snail

Stopping to smell the… snail?

Parenthood is a blur. People tell me all the time that “it goes too fast,” and “enjoy it now because they’ll grow up in an instant.” I used to think these were just a bunch of clichés old ladies said in the grocery store to make conversation, but now I realize that they’re right. Sure, my kids are still little and I have years of dashing out the door in the morning and struggling to come up with a nutritious dinner plan that my kids will actually eat (without me having to concoct some elaborate story about how broccoli comes from an enchanted forest and why grilled chicken is magical). But the truth is, if my kids grow up as quickly as the last three years have gone, it’ll be their Bat Mitzvahs, high school graduations and weddings before I know it (cue the sounds of a cash register here).

If we’re always running ahead, we won’t have time to see what we’re missing. We won’t have time to see our babies develop a new sense of self (and the world) that comes with learning to walk. We’ll miss our young children taking risks and developing confidence each time they pick themselves up after falling down. We won’t cherish the early (even the early, early) morning snuggles that come after a nightmare or the giggles that come from an impromptu family dance party in the living room before bed.

flower children

My flower children

Life might be short, but the days are long and the opportunities to appreciate the little moments are great. Each day I try to remind myself of this, and try to relish in the memories that are being formed in a seemingly simple moment. These are the moments that matter, and these are the moments I don’t want to miss because I was running too quickly to appreciate them.