I still remember the moment vividly: my firstborn was only a handful of weeks old. A trip to Target felt like a Herculean effort–especially with daddy on a sudden business trip out of the country. In typical newborn fashion, our little guy couldn’t lift his head too long sans support and in typical new mom neuroticism, I felt irrevocably overwhelmed. I was sore in parts I heretofore didn’t know existed, sleep-deprived in the vein of terrorist torture, and slowly comprehending the eight pounds of wriggling, liquid- emitting (albeit adorable and precious) human being whose utter life and well-being lay solely (for that one week with my hubby away) in my inexperienced hands.
And there stood Target just a few yards away, it’s familiar red Bull’s eye like a mommy oasis in my postpartum desert-minded state. Target, with its aisles full of everything from lipsticks to lawn chairs; Target, with its warm jumbo-sized pretzels and forgiving maternity-wear; Target, with other humans wandering inside in consumer glee—ah, Target. (Note: If you are reading this and wondering what illegal medication I’m on, you are not—or clearly have yet to be—a parent of a newborn.)
To actually make it into the car involved a few minor detours: several minut es of red-faced grimaces followed by a couple of subsequent diaper changes, another feeding, an ear-stabbing colicky moment, oops another diaper change, and (insert big sigh), in he was securely snapped inside the requisite albeit intimidating contraption for travel (AKA the car seat). Fast forward past the packing up of the equally important diaper bag, and the Mensa-involved attachment of said car seat to stroller, and this neurotic new mommy and her baby made a bee line for the Bull’s eye.
But gosh darn it, I had made it! My first trip to Target as a new mom! And my baby was blissfully sleeping. If I ignored the intense urge my eyelids felt to close, there was this mini-milestone to celebrate. All was good in my world.
“Sheri?” a familiar voice called from behind me.
The woman before me looked familiar but my frazzled brain couldn’t quite place her perky smile. Besides, I was too painfully aware of my spit-up stained clothing in the face of her Dry Clean Only garments.
“Oh my goodness, you had a baby!” she crooned and moved her perfectly coiffed head close to my baby’s sleeping face. She put a manicured hand to her non-leaking chest and said the words every new parent hears dozens of times until the urge to throw something at said person becomes painfully desirable: “Oh enjoy this time. It goes so fast.” There seemed to be tears in her eyes, though the skeptic in me took it for tears of joy that she wasn’t in my postpartum-yet-still-swollen feet.
The rabbi at our children’s school says that when it comes to raising little ones, the days are long but the years are short. If you had asked that newly overwhelmed mother in Target to appreciate the ever-morphing miracle of her son, she would have smiled tightly and then asked you where the alcohol section was located. If you had asked her to believe that manicured woman’s wisdom, she would insist you were deluding yourself. Time for that new mother made molasses look fast; time seemed to bend back on itself, where minutes were measured by bowel movements and burps. In that young mother’s mind, her son’s utter dependence for life—along with the hours until her next shower—felt interminably long.
Ah, hindsight—it’s one of the best visions humankind can experience. That gurgling, 8 pounds of wriggling sweetness is now almost nine years old. And somewhere after those first rough weeks of life, I calmed down. I stopped measuring time in worries and started noticing the poetry of time with this beautiful soul: the way the sunlight reflected his silky locks, the expression on his face when his father came home from work, the curve of his mouth as he slept.
Hindsight—I see the Dry Clean Only woman’s eyes filling up with tears of mourning for her babies who at the time were off to college, embarking on lives of their own. Hindsight—I would take sleep deprivation any day if it meant brushing my lips against the peachy fuzz of a newborn’s skin.
Gratefully, my hindsight arrived early on as a mother. Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of days when I am eager to bang my head against a convenient wall or when I wonder how humans have survived this long sans an official parenting handbook. But my intention is different and therefore, so is my perspective on time. Time is going to tick by at the same rate, regardless of what we do (well, there are quantum physicists playing around with time travel but let’s leave that for another blog post;-). But when we make a conscious effort to appreciate a moment—whether it is with our kids, our spouse, our friends, our fill-in-the-blank person(s)—in our lives, we are grabbing time by its figurative reigns. When we truly hear our children laugh, when we notice the palpable happiness on their faces as we play a round of football with them, when we are present, time somehow matters more.
I encourage you to take a moment, however brief, and make a point of seeing, really seeing the loved ones in your life. Go for a smoothie after school with your child, take the long way home with your toddler (assuming she’s not near meltdown mode for nap time;-), snuggle with your adolescent before bedtime and really listen to what he may or may not be saying. Maybe the moment lasts a minute or maybe a half hour goes by before you notice the time. Regardless, you will be soaking up the miracle of your loved one, filling your soul with memories that will only come to matter more with time.