It’s graduation season and all over social media mamas and papas in my circle are proudly posting photos of their offspring in their caps and gowns. My own oldest completed the first of two graduations May 24th and will speak at her high school graduation in just a couple of weeks.
And repeatedly the refrain is “where did the time go?” We ask it as if we’re surprised, or as if we don’t actually know. And maybe, we’re so busy sometimes we really don’t know where it goes. Maybe somehow we can’t fathom that we’re actually here in this moment- that we’ve all made it to this threshold of their adulthood….and we can’t seem to remember how we got here. Except, I think, if we stop for a moment, we know.
We got here by staring sleeplessly at their glorious newborn selves, wondering how this beautiful creature could possibly have come through us and how they could even be real. We got here with every endless night of all night feeding, and teething and fussing and long days of them falling over trying to walk where we were both astounded by the magic of watching them grow and change and at the same time were grateful at the end of the day that they made it through intact. With every sleepless night, checking to see if they’re still breathing, applying compresses to fevered brows. With every set of sweet chubby cheeks and runny nose we wiped and every skinned knee we bandaged, we got here. We got here with the first day of pre-k or kindergarten, maybe excited, maybe tearful, maybe both (for them and for us), and then we got here with hundreds of more school drop offs and pickups, or loading onto and off of buses, some of these frayed and frantic moments when we were just grateful we got going for the day in one piece, and some when we had the presence of mind to squeeze the little hand that still wanted to hold ours a bit extra, knowing that wouldn’t last forever.
We got here baking birthday cakes and preparing and cleaning up after thousand of meals, peeling grapes and cutting off crusts, and cajoling them to try new things, and nudging them to eat their veggies. We got here washing umpteen loads of laundry, watching over the years as the tiny clothes became medium clothes became clothes that could be mistaken for our own. We got here when they started complaining that that shirt wasn’t clean and “why wasn’t it!” and we decided it was time for them to do their own laundry.
We got here answering the oh so many whys from tiny chipmunk voices, and playing with playdough and singing silly little songs, and learning to ride bikes and learning piano or drums or cello. We got here combing out lice and breaking up dozens upon dozens of sibling squabbles, wading through homework and getting them to do housework and questioning ourselves at least a hundred thousand times and feeling impossibly under qualified for the job but showing up every day and doing it all again, maybe with some tweaks and course corrections and often some regrets, and still we kept showing up for this task of raising tiny humans to adulthood which has no true guidebook.
We got here by cheering them on at their concerts or plays or sporting events and with dropping them off and picking them up countless times, or while oohing and awing over a thousand sweet drawings that came home with the 27000 other things in their school folders. And just as much as celebrating their triumphs, we got here holding them up when they stumbled and soothing them through all the heart aching realities of real life not always going as planned or as it does in movies and fairytales but knowing this, too, is part of becoming more real and more human, and hopefully more humane.
We got here by navigating with as much grace as we could muster, sometimes better than others, that shift from when we were their most favorite, most special person in their world to somehow the most clueless, annoying, and lamest. We got here by dealing with the whiplash of that and by taking deep breaths and we kept remembering these aliens who were once our sweet babies still needed us and especially to know that we were still there even if they Did think we were totally lame. Because we were Their totally lame parent. And so we kept showing up. And eventually, if we were lucky, we became less lame again, if not entirely cool, and we finally exhaled for a moment and realized we’d made it, just a little bit.
We got here by taking them to their first jobs, and by teaching them to drive, and then by learning ourselves how not to panic all over again as they took yet another step out into the world and away from our protective arms. We got here sending them out, bit by bit and more and more into a world where we knew full well that some of the people weren’t the people we wanted anywhere near our precious children, but we did it anyway, knowing that if we tried to protect them from everything, we would be robbing them of life itself. So we took lots of deep breaths and sometimes cried when they didn’t know it and we did it.
We got here knowing we were supposed to soak up every minute, but also realizing our own deep humanity meant we wouldn’t, couldn’t possibly, so we just soaked up as many moments as we could when we were able, and recognized that would have to be enough even if it didn’t always feel like it.
We got here by suddenly ordering caps and gowns, when all of that other stuff felt like 5 minutes ago, and by helping them plan their next steps all the while knowing these steps would take them further away from us and into this world we’re not sure we’re ready to release them too. But we took those steps with them anyway, as shaky ourselves as when they were taking their own first steps so many years ago. Because this is the stuff of life, the best and the richest, the most joyful and also the most heart wrenchingly bittersweet.
And that, my friends, is where the time goes.