I always knew it would happen: I had children with the understanding that they wouldn’t be babies forever. Yet I’m still reeling from the shock of waking up and discovering that my toddlers are actually teens.

Of course I’ve been there with them every step of the way: I suffered (I mean rejoiced!) with them through new teeth and acne, scraped knees and home runs, good grades and not such good ones, new friends and lost friends, visits to the ER, successes and disappointments of all sorts and just about everything else that comes with child development and child-rearing.

People always say how quickly “time flies,” that we’re supposed to treasure each moment before it slips away. Sometimes it’s hard to live in the present when we have to be so concerned about the future—saving money, getting good grades, filling out college applications, applying for jobs! But I definitely try to savor each moment with my kids.

I take more photos of them than they’d like me to–and I often stay in the moment for too long, attempting to engrave it into my memory. I want to hold their hands, hug and kiss them… And when they let me, I’m often amazed that the chubby cheeks have given way to chiseled cheekbones; the rolls around their wrists are just that their sleeves are too long; their cute bellies reveal a progressing six-pack.

My boys have become gentlemen. They learned from their dad and practiced with me. They are handsome and sweet and charming and smart and helpful and moody and messy and disrespectful!  Would I go back to their toddler-hood if it were possible? Not likely.

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Diapers and strollers and sippy cups have become boxer shorts and MetroCards and coffee cups. I think I’m okay with that. I do love seeing the men they’re growing into. I’m incredibly proud of their independence, their work ethic, their values. And I’m proud of myself for surviving parenthood–so far, as it never really ends.

People always talk about the “Terrible Twos” but it’s really the “Three-nager” phase that’s much worse.  And the REAL teenage years are painful on so many levels, if for no other reason than that they are struggling to become adults and we are struggling to keep them close.

Regardless, child development is amazing. One day your baby is small enough to fit into the “crook” of your arm, and then suddenly his feet are bigger than yours. And in between, she is discovering that ladybugs fly, that flowers smell pretty, that dogs love to be pet but not necessarily climbed on, that swings go back and forth if someone pushes you and that mom and dad love you unconditionally.

During that time, he’s starting to talk and has almost as many answers as he has questions. She also becomes defiant… a normal, healthy part of child development, but not an easy part by any means.

I don’t know that I have great words of wisdom for my fellow parents—but hang in there.  Play, take pictures, stand your ground and remember to breathe—and be sure to exhale!  And if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably watch them sleep now and then, even when they’re almost all grown up.

Featured Photo Courtesy: Ig Mark via Pexels