Earlier this week, I followed a friend’s link on Facebook to an article on Huffington Post titled “Why I Want a Baby.” The post was alternately titled – in headlines and in the URL – as “Why I’d Give Anything for My Grown-Up Kids To Be Babies Again,” and “Empty Nest Syndrome.”
In the post, the author asks “What is simpler and more life-affirming than a brand new baby?,” and immediately I thought: “Knowing that despite all your mistakes, your children turn out alright” (a perspective you only receive once they’re grown).
The author goes on to say “I find myself willing my soul back in time, grabbing frantically for what was once my daily life with babies and trying to remember. To remember how it felt to snuggle a sleepy one right up next to my neck in the early-morning hours when the rest of the house slept.” And all I could think while reading it was “And then to remember that I still needed to be bright-eyed the next day despite lack of sleep. To remember that I still had other children to care for, even school work to do or a work shift to get ready for, depending on what stage of my babies and young motherhood we’re talking about.”
I will grant that this author may have experienced young motherhood much differently than I did. I loved having my babies, raising my babies, but I would never go back. I was too tired, too unsure, too doubtful.
We made all the memories the author mentions – the “camping trips and amusement parks, birthdays and sleepovers, friends, family, beloved pets and favorite toys” – but I admit to wondering through it all “Will this matter down the road, will they remember, will it count, is it enough?” Even without Facebook or blogs or Pinterest or the hundred other ways we look at each other’s lives online and compare our experiences in motherhood, I was still comparing my work as a mom to some unknown, unknowable standard.
But now that my kids are older? NOW is when I see what all of it was worth. NOW is when I see that they have flourished despite my flaws, that every moment did count, whether it is remembered or not.
And NOW is when I see that I really, really like my older kids. They are wonderful. They are smart. They are funny and kind and adventurous and talented. Those are things I didn’t know about them when they were babies. In fact, if I were to go back and “know then what I know now,” I’d still want to rush through the years to be here, NOW, to enjoy them as incredible, grown individuals.
But even if I don’t want my older children to be babies again, I will tell you what I might like instead. I might like to always be near them, a request that seems just as unlikely and unreasonable (and admittedly, pretty selfish).
I recently spent 6 days with my oldest daughter, who is married and lives in another state while working and going to college. Those 6 days were so wonderful! And I miss her now that we’re back to our respective homes.
So let’s get to work on teleportation instead of time travel; I’ll leave the babies to this generation of young moms and enjoy crossing distance to make memories with my older children today.
What do you think? Would you like to go back and enjoy your children as babies again?