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How I'm Constantly Missing Out Even Though I'm Always There

Photograph by Twenty20

One night I asked my husband, “Do you see our daughter as the young version of her future self or the grown-up version of the baby she was?”

He said the latter, while I’d been thinking of her as the former.

It was an "aha!" moment for me and explained some of our different approaches to parenting. I'd been looking toward the future (meet those milestones, we have plenty to go!). By contrast, my husband had been marveling at each new step without worrying about the next.

I’d inadvertently missed some of the present, even while my husband was celebrating it.

Now that she's almost 4, I look back to the baby days and miss them terribly. Why didn't I relish them more? When you're a first-time mom, the days feel long. But the years are short.

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If I could go back in time, I'd say to myself, “I know it feels like the days are blurring into one another and that you don't like it when people tell you this all goes by too fast, because it doesn't feel fast to you right now. But trust me, make as many memories out of these little moments as you can. Future-you will thank you for it. Don’t stress the little stuff.”

If I close my eyes, it feels like three years ago, but only for an instant.

As I walked away from my daughter’s first day of preschool, I thought I would be sad. I wasn’t. I was stunned. My daughter had given me a quick goodbye and ran off happily (no tears on her part!). I sat in my car in awe at the nature of time.

It did go by quickly—everyone had been right.

I remember when she was placed in my arms for the first time. Our first night as parents. That newborn scent. The little cries that woke me relentlessly. The nights that felt endless (they weren’t). The milk-drunk smiles. The first laugh. Those first wobbly steps. The days when I was “mamama.”

I don’t want to be forced to be nostalgic—I want to enjoy our relationship as it happens.

Now what?

I don’t want to be forced to be nostalgic—I want to enjoy our relationship as it happens. That’s why I'm trying to approach our days with the understanding that she'll never be this little again. So when she walks up to me and says, “Mama carry me,” I put all that core strength I’ve been building in yoga class to work. I hold her, and we sway quietly, gently, in the evening light of our kitchen. If I close my eyes, it feels like three years ago, but only for an instant.

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Then I’m watching her build a mighty tower or practice her ballet moves and, once again, I’m in awe of the time that’s passed. But instead of thinking about what’s to come, I’m enjoying the moment then and there. The future can wait.

I log into Facebook—I’m still getting used to this whole having-time-to-myself thing. I see some family friends share a photo of themselves dropping their son off at college. When it’s time to pick up my daughter from preschool, we spend extra minutes patting the classroom bunnies.

It could be worse.

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