But how do I do it?
There is one little bit of inspiration that literally descended upon me almost two years ago, while I was holding Nuggey in the bathroom, that has completely revolutionized my parenting. When I keep this truth in mind, I find it as easy as apple pie to stay calm in the midst of toddler chaos.
I remember that I’m gonna miss this.
It was dark, during the end of bathtime, and Prince Charming was gone. I was doing dinner, baths and bedtime myself those days, as my husband worked late. It had been, undoubtedly, a long day with the kids. Big Mac was three, Nuggey was one and a half and Small Fry was a baby. It is as clear as day still, this memory.
I was sitting on the toilet, drying MckNugget off after his bath. Small Fry, unable to roll, was sprawled on the floor of the bathroom on some towels, wearing nothing but a diaper and a grimace. Big Mac was still in the tub. He was squawking to get out and Small Fry was bellyaching for attention. But I slowly wrapped Nuggey up in his towel, determined to stay calm, and cuddled him in terrycloth. I slowly rocked him back and forth in my arms and sang Rock-a-bye Baby to my second born.
As I wrapped up the song, I prepared to sit Nuggey up and attend to the chaos that was the other children. After all, there were baths to finish, teeth to brush, diapers to put on, jammies to find and beds to tuck children into. But as he sensed me about to right him, Nuggey tossed his wet head back in my arms and looked up at me. “Uh-gain!”
So I sang Rock-a-bye Baby one more time, but I told him it would be the last. Yet when I finished, he begged again for more.
I didn’t want to do more. I didn’t want to sing to him one more time. I was tired. Tired of children, tired of singing, tired of the day. I just wanted it to be over. But then suddenly, as if fairy dust was sprinkled from the heavens right onto my tired head, the entire reality of my future set in.
I’m gonna miss this.
I looked down at little Nuggey, his damp eyelashes long and dark batting at me, his tiny bottom cradled in my hand, his soft, chubby legs thrown over my arm, his body entirely dependent on mine as I held him in my lap, and I could see the future. Nuggey, a grown boy, sporting a football jersey and facial hair, walked out of the bathroom. It was going to happen, and soon. And while I knew there would be joys with that time in my life, when our young children are teenagers and beyond, it struck me like a ton of bricks.
When that time comes, I’m gonna miss this.
When Nuggey comes home from college, barely speaks a word to me and hibernates in his bedroom all summer, I’m gonna miss this. As my mind fast forwarded to the future, I knew that at that moment, I would give anything for 20 year old Nuggey to be a toddler again, just for one more hour, so I could rock him and sing while I stroked his wet head.
And here, years earlier, I was being given my wish. I was able to rock Nuggey, a nearly helpless babe in arms, one more time.
Given a new perspective from which to see, I sang Rock-a-bye Baby as many times as Nuggey would let me that night. Eventually Small Fry found her hands and started admiring them, and Big Mac grabbed a new tub toy. And I relished that time with my son in my arms, knowing that soon enough he would be all grown, and my arms would ache to hold him like a baby again.
I’m gonna miss this.
My mind cannot help but wander to those parents who have lost children. What on earth would they not give to hold their children again, even for a moment. I bet they would not complain about having to sing Rock-a-bye Baby one more time. Rather, they would probably give their right arm to sing it ten million times until their voice was hoarse and their eyelids closed in slumber.
And women with empty wombs who long and pray and ache for children? What honor am I doing them if I take for granted the fact that I have children, young children who are begging me to cuddle them, sing to them. I will love those women who long for a baby by loving mybabies and not taking them for granted.
So, I determined right there and then in the bathroom to try to be ever thankful for the moments I do have with my children. I will not wish away their young years, always hoping to get more laundry done or other children dried off. I will relish each kiss, hug and song. I will leave their childhood behind with no regrets, no “I love you” unsaid, no cheek unkissed, no request to “Cuddle wif’ me!” turned down. Even as the macaroni flies and the Sharpie stains my table, even when there are midnight wailers and globs of Desitin under my fingernails, I know…
…I know I’m gonna miss this.