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On the first day of school. On the last day of school. On birthdays, holidays, and even just regular Tuesdays, I hear the words from my friends and myself all the time– “I can’t believe,” followed by, “how old she is, how big he has gotten, how fast this year is going, etc.” Maybe it’s the busy pace of our lives or our uncertainty about getting older ourselves that makes it so hard to believe that time is passing. Whatever the reason, I admit that I find myself in disbelief about what’s going on with my kids on some level or another nearly all the time. And I don’t seem to be alone.
I got to witness one of the most “I can’t believe” moments a parent will ever face – a wedding – along with my best friend when her daughter got married. The entire event felt like extreme culture shock. I went from my world of little league games and mom and tot classes to dress fittings and floral design meetings. I may as well have been transported to Mars. It felt good to get out of my bubble. And the change of scenery made me realize a few things about life at home.
Time really does fly. First, it’s the baby milestones – smiling, talking, walking. These changes leave me in a constant state of wonder. Then there’s the big kid stuff – starting preschool, going to kindergarten, turning double digits. For me, these transitions have been mainly emotional – seeing my kids develop distinct personalities, memories, and friends outside of our home. It’s only logical that this phase will morph into the teenager phase and yes, eventually, the adult phase. It seems ridiculous to picture my own kids getting married. But my friend sitting next to me, watching her daughter walk down the aisle, doesn’t feel so different – yet there she was.
Friends matter. The wedding speeches were full of hilarious stories about the bride and groom, many of them told by lifelong friends. Some of the stories the parents had heard before. Others were new information. I was reminded how big a role my kids’ friends play in creating the story of their lives. I spend a lot of time setting up playdates and arranging activities for my kids to do with their friends. It felt gratifying to see that the time the kids spend together becomes part of shared memories and friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime. Thinking of my own kids’ friends giving speeches at their weddings seems ludicrous – still too far into the future to seem real – but these “kids’” moms had once said the same thing.
Memories matter. The bride’s father gave a speech at the wedding about a story that happened when the bride was 2 years old. This made me think about which stories will stay with my kids, which anecdotes will end up being the defining moments of their childhood – the ones that embody their spirit so much that they get retold at their most important moments. So many things happen in a day, let alone in the course of a week or month or year. How can I know which stories, which days will matter? I can’t know, but then again, neither did this dad the day this particular story happened 22 years earlier.
Celebrations matter. This wedding seemed like more than just a party – it was a true celebration, a chance to step outside of our everyday lives and to recognize a couple we love. Ironically, at a time of shock at how fast time is going by, time actually slowed down if only for a few hours. Of course, this didn’t last. As people said their goodbyes, the bride pleaded Don’t’ leave! She must have been having her own “I can’t believe” moment that the wedding had to end. She wasn’t ready for it to be over.
I feel the same way about being ready for the next phase my kids will enter. I see now more than ever that there is no such thing as being ready – that “I can’t believe” feeling is never going to go away. There will never be a time when I feel totally ready for a milestone – not to say I won’t welcome it or be excited for it – just that there will always be a bit of uncertainty, a bit of awe, and a bit of improvisation as the next thing comes along.