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You'll Miss the Tough Parenting Moments, Too

When I was a hormone-addled, sleep-deprived creature barely resembling a human in my son's earliest months, people told me: "Cherish it, it goes so fast." I grumbled and growled, too exhausted to take any advice to heart that wasn't how to get my baby to sleep at night. It was advice I believed to be true but couldn't put into practice at the time.

Now, flash forward, my boy is closing out first grade and almost 7, a number that sounds too old for how quickly it's gone. Friday nights I tuck in with him into his just barely big enough bottom bunk, surrounded by a menagerie of stuffed animals, pillows and layers of blankets. It's a ritual which, I admit, I look forward to as much as he does. When I post about this, friends with teens or grown children comment nostalgically, "I miss those days," or "I'd give anything to have just one more slumber party like that again."

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I think about their words when my son's foot winds up in my ribs or he thrashes in his sleep and elbows me in the nose. I think this also when I'm grumbling about going to the boring park down the street again or one of his questions cuts in on my work for the tenth time in a row despite having set him up with an activity.

This is parenthood in a nutshell. All the little agonies in the moment soon become treasures you'd love to recreate, gone too soon to catch them. Now I can see all the sweetness in babies, where once I only felt a weighty fatigue and sense of burden. Now even the most intense of toddlers make me smile with their wide-eyed observations and goofy humor, though I had to go back to therapy to handle my own toddler. As the mother of an only child I am feeling this fleeting nature of his childhood ever more keenly.

Parenthood is continual trial by fire, thousands of tiny storms that burn you down and push you to rise from the ashes of your old self a different person.

I already miss the way he used to pluck cereal from my bowl with his fingers and drip it wetly all over the table in the mornings; the way paint and glitter wound up more in the fibers of my carpet than on his construction paper; the way anything organized in a basket or a drawer could be found dumped upside down, order destroyed at his hand.

I miss his sweet, fat red cheeks at nap time even though getting him to sleep was a struggle that left me flat and frustrated, and I miss the way he'd insist on sitting on my lap for a half hour after waking from it, grumbling and whining like a little old man.

I even miss the hormone fog, the emotional highs and lows of his first months, up on the couch in hours I should have been sleeping, trying to keep him awake long enough to nurse on the now painfully swollen, leaking other breast.

I miss the way he'd beg for me to keep making more Play-Doh creatures until my fingers felt arthritic or how he'd cry as though the world were ending when we were out of his favorite cookies; I even miss the way he'd stomp down the hallway to his room when mad and slam the door.

I miss the moments when he interrupted my sleep to climb into bed with us, night after night, sweaty head pressed into my armpit, me now wide awake for another hour, eventually lulled by the sound of his breathing.

I miss the moments when I had no idea what I was doing, too. I miss my own fumbling, earnest, harried self because she, too, was precious. She was a woman in the act of transformation, a person about to experience life through the love for her child, which is sort of like the moment Dorothy steps out of Kansas and into Oz. Everything is in Technicolor, almost painfully bright, munchkins running everywhere, and all you have to do is make friends with strangers and find your way down that strange yellow path.

And I will miss this little kid now, who still climbs into my lap for a few minutes every morning but sometimes refuses to kiss me in front of his friends. I will miss our discussions about nature and who made the world, and how he will become a scientist. I will miss even my personal aches at the end of a long day, wondering if I was a good enough mom.

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Parenthood is continual trial by fire, thousands of tiny storms that burn you down and push you to rise from the ashes of your old self a different person. I relish the ways my son has changed me, and I will miss every moment, no matter how hard. For nothing in life worth having comes too easily.

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