It wasn’t until my own babies were tweens that I truly understood what “enjoy them while they’re young” means.
It was the sight of that baby’s uncomplicated smile that did it, that finally made me understand what those women had been trying to tell me all those years ago, when they repeatedly noted how fast it goes and urged me to enjoy each moment.
Frazzled and sleep deprived, I could only interpret that advice literally, and puzzle over it. Which was not, I now realize, the intent. What those women were telling me to enjoy in my little kids was something specific, something I took for granted until it disappeared from my life as a parent: unconditional love and affection.
I get it. I was a quiet, withdrawn teen myself, spending hours alone in my room with a book. I wasn’t particularly demonstrative—at least, not where my parents were concerned. I accepted their affection routinely, as my due. So I am unsurprised that my two teen boys don’t greet me with joy when I return home after a few hours away. I don’t expect them to tell me how much they love me, or to offer spontaneous hugs and kisses.
But it sure was nice when they did those things.
I’ll never be the type to advise a weary mother to treasure each moment. But that day in the produce section, I wanted to tell that woman something else: to soak up the embraces, the sweet heft of a toddler on the hip, the fun of coaxing a smile from a baby, the joy of a preschooler spotting you at pickup. Because if I had understood how much I’d miss all that affection, maybe I really would have tried to savor it a little more.
Of course, I didn’t say a word to that mother at the grocery store. I’m not one of those older ladies. Not yet, anyway.