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An Open Letter to My Future Self

Dear Future Self,

As I imagine you—you, who are me, many years after I've been the parent of young children—I picture you as someone who is well-rested. Not necessarily carefree. Not completely serene. But well-rested. At least a hell of a lot more well-rested than I am right now. Almost as if you regularly get a full night's sleep. And drink an entire hot cup of coffee every morning. In a quiet house. With no little, grubby hands smearing peanut-butter on the walls or wiping snot onto your clean shirt.

I hate you. I mean, I love you. I envy you. I am you. (This is weird, talking to my future self.)

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Future self, I think I know exactly what you want to tell me right now. I can picture the tears welling in your eyes. I can sense your own envy.

You are probably still the sentimental sap that I am, that I always have been and that I likely always will be.

I can hear you begging me to hold my babies tight, to never let them go because they will not be this small and this easy to hold forever.

I know now that their childhoods and their littleness are speeding by fast. The 9-year-old brushes off my hugs every day. The 6-year-old can barely fit in my arms anymore. The 3-year-old still snuggles me close, though I know he'll be just as big, just as reluctant to cuddle as his brothers someday soon.

You imagine their little faces, their cherubic cheeks, but you erase the screeching, the competing needs, the way you held your breath and clenched your eyes shut when you didn't know how to muddle your way through the constant noise of parenting little ones.

But before you remind me of how "it all goes by so fast"—before you urge me to "cherish every moment"—I need to remind you of all that you might forget about being a parent of young children. Because you do forget some of it. I know that you do, because I'm already starting to forget it. With each passing year, I forget more of the specific textures, the exact decibels, the precise frustrations of being a parent of young children.

You see, you probably forget what it's like to have three small people needing something from you all at the same time. You might be able to imagine it. Perhaps you smile wistfully just thinking about it. But that's probably because your memories are on mute. You imagine their little faces, their cherubic cheeks, but you erase the screeching, the competing needs, the way you held your breath and clenched your eyes shut when you didn't know how to muddle your way through the constant noise of parenting little ones.

You probably forget what it felt like to hate hearing the words, "Mom? Mom! Mom?! Mommy? Moooommmmmm?" You might give anything to hear those words right now, to hear your children's tiny voices once again. But you must remember that there was a time when all you wanted was for no one to need anything from you for an entire hour. Or just 15 minutes. Even five minutes.

There were times when you locked yourself in the bathroom so that you could cry. Sometimes you didn't even know why you were crying. It was just all too much, all the needing of you—you, Mom, Mommy, Mama, Mooommmmmmm.

You probably forget what it felt like to never, ever poop in peace. You might forget those days where going to the bathroom—alone, uninterrupted—felt like a vacation. You probably don't remember what it was like to rush each call of nature so that you wouldn't give your toddler enough time to destroy the house, or themselves. And so, if you want me to savor a few more moments with my little kids, please go to the bathroom right now and savor the hell of out the fact that you can pee and poop without anyone screaming at you or banging on the door. I want you to cherish every day where your butt is the only one you are responsible for wiping.

You probably forget what it's like to try and have a thought—a single, coherent thought—in the midst of your children's whining and arguing and incessant tugging at your pants leg. You might miss the chatter of their little voices, but I'd bet all the money in the world that you only miss it as background noise. You miss the beautiful, sweet moments that you've committed to memory. You likely don't miss those times when the sheer difficulty of parenting young children threatened to swallow you whole.

But I cannot cherish every moment.

You probably forget how desperate and hollow all the selflessness of parenting little ones made you feel.

And so, I will make some promises to you: I want you to know that I will kiss all the tiny hands and toes and cheeks I can tonight. I want you to know that I will linger for a little while when the older boys reach to hug me. I want you to know that I will be grateful for their not-so-busy schedules and their not-so-grown-up problems. I want you to know that I will relish each time they say, "I love you," each time I hear their laughter as they play with one another.

But I cannot cherish every moment. I cannot promise that I won't wish the time to speed by a bit more quickly in those more chaotic parenting moments. I cannot savor every second of parenting because not every second is savor-able.

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All I can do is try my best to raise these kids to be people who, with only minimal prodding, will still want to hug their mom with their grimy, grubby big hands, who will still say, "I love you" with their deep, grown-up voices.

And I imagine that I will still have plenty to savor when I'm you.

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Image credit: Kristen Oganowski

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