Monday, March 20, 2017

The Motherhood Time Warp

Last summer, I was in charge of gathering family pictures for a slideshow.

I had a lot of years to cover, so I started with the most recent shots in our photo library and started working my way backward.

We'd just had a baby a few weeks before and so of course, 80% of our photos were shots of the baby sleeping or being held by various family members. I scrolled back one week, two weeks, and then suddenly he wasn't in the pictures anymore, because he hadn't been born yet.

Wait, hadn't he always been a part of our family? I couldn't imagine or hardly even remember life without him, and yet he only existed in a few dozen pictures and that was it.

So weird.

Then an equally bizarre realization hit me, that someday our photo library will have not just pictures of him swaddled like a burrito in his sister's arms, but pictures of him playing pee-wee soccer, graduating from high school, getting married. It's almost as hard to imagine that as it is imagining life before he existed.

The ladies in the grocery store will tell you it goes by so fast, but I don't think that's quite right. The shocking part isn't how fast time goes by, but that it goes at all.

Motherhood means you give yourself so completely to your people in this present moment it's almost unfathomable that another moment, a completely different one, will ever come.

Motherhood means you give yourself so completely to your people in this present moment it's almost unfathomable that another moment, a completely different one, will ever come.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Right now we're up to our eyeballs in chaos and every day is like a marathon. The dining room table is a perpetual mess, littered with craft supplies and school projects and discarded snack dishes. There's always someone pounding on the piano, someone crying, and someone else thundering up or down the stairs.

It's hard to believe it wasn't always so messy and loud around here, and it's just as hard to believe that as time marches on the kids will grow up it and it will get quiet again. I can't quite wrap my head around it.

There are plenty of moments  like right now as I write this, sitting with my laptop in my preschooler's room so she'll go to sleep  when I don't feel like time is going fast at all.

I watch her chest slowly rise and fall, her chubby fingers twitching on her pillow, and it feels like she's always been exactly like she is right now, and always will be.

Scrolling backward through our photos last summer, watching each of our kids get younger and younger and then disappear one by one, was truly a bizarre experience.

It's not that I can't remember those times 5 or 10 years ago, but I realize that a lot of my memories come from photos or videos or funny stories that have become family lore. When I try to recall what it was really like and how I felt day-to-day, it's a little hazy, almost like I'm remembering something that happened to someone else.

And in a way, I am. Back then, I was a different mother. My kids have changed, too.

It's not that I can't believe how fast the time has gone; I just can't believe that my children have kept on changing. I never stop being surprised that they're different kids now than they were a year ago, or that a year from now they'll be different still.

Motherhood may not speed up time, but it certainly does distort it.

Trying to understand this motherhood time warp has taught me to live life in the present. To embrace the mess and the chaos and the sticky hugs because they weren't always there, and they won't always be.

Logically, I know this. But try as I might, I still can't quite convince my heart that it's true.

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5 comments:

  1. Beautifully said. Thank you.

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  2. This is a really interesting question, because it does see like it goes so slow sometimes and yet you look back and think, how has it been that long? I feel like I try to be in the moment as much as possible, and that's really the best you can do. Because you can't freeze it, and it's a strange combination of feeling like one day takes forever while the week just flew by.

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    1. Exactly, you just do the best you can. When I look back to a decade ago when my oldest was a baby, in some respects it seems like a million years ago. It doesn't really feel like the time flew by - not to me, anyway - it just feels so weird to think that she was a baby once and now she's not anymore! And someday she'll be in her 40s and that's equally weird to imagine.

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  3. This made me cry. Not because it was overly emotional, but because today as I was riding four-wheelers with my kids, I was thinking along similar thoughts. All because my daughter was asking about my Mom today, who passed away long before she was born. (Not before she was thought of because we tried for four years to have her and my mom was alive when we started praying for her arrival.) It is definitely an odd feeling to realize how much time, life and people change. I write (or will write on this new blog) about how we need to make the most of every moment we have because I watched my mom die of cancer, and I ended up making one of the hardest decisions of my life with my first born that makes me appreciate every single second I have with my kids even when I'm bouncing off the walls trying to keep my cool.

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    1. I've gotten a lot of canned "The days are long, but the years are short" responses to this article, which are missing my point, and I appreciate that you caught what I was trying to say in this post!

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