Sure, it’s clichéd parenting advice but there’s a solid ring of truth to every word.
By the time you read this, my middle son will turn 26 and on the heels of that birthday, my oldest son will be 28. In September, my daughter will turn 16.
And somewhere along that crazy turning wheel of time, I will also turn 49.
I don’t know how that happened.
I look at my kids and I see the babies they were, even though two are adults and one is starting her last two years of high school.
A moment of panic squeezes my chest when I realize how little time we all have together on this earth. I worry that we haven’t possibly packed enough good memories into our memory banks to sustain us when we’re older and time is moving much too quickly for my tastes.
It seems like all of a sudden time went into fast-forward mode and everything is whizzing by in a blur but I can’t find the button to slow it down.
I’m trying desperately to catch every moment, to savor each experience, and soak up every bit of laughter and smiles I have with my kids because I understand every instance is fleeting.
I took for granted too much when I was younger. I was impatient with my kids, always looking forward to the moment when they were more self-sufficient, until one day, I blinked and they no longer needed me.
Nostalgia is a familiar companion these days. I can’t stop to flip through photo albums without getting lost in the past when my children were small. I find myself lingering on each toothy grin, each crazy curl, each accomplishment, and every memory of their sweet laughter ringing in my head.
I’m not trying to live in the past but in the past lives two little boys whose laughter lit up my life and a little girl who danced with abandon through the living room as if she were on stage and the whole world was watching.
Today, my boys are men. They have careers, aspirations, heartaches and challenges that are unique to them. My daughter spends most of her time in her room, creating her own identity separate from the one I helped mold. Even as I fight the urge to be a pest, I give her the space she needs to grow.
When you become a parent, no one tells you how painful it will be to let go — to let the next cycle of life roll on for your children.
The empty nest syndrome is a real thing. Sure, the idea of traveling and doing all the things you had to put on hold when you were raising little kids seems appealing, until you realize, you want to travel with your kids.
There’s never been a time when I haven’t wanted my kids traveling with me, even when it’s frustrating and ultra-expensive, my first thought has always been, “Let’s take the kids!”
Because it’s the memories that matter.
At the end of the day, all we have is now. How we live our lives, and spend our time, will be worth far more than actual coin when we’re too old to do much more than reminisce.
I can only hope I’m filling the right bank for the future because all we have is today to make a difference in that balance sheet for tomorrow.
In the meantime, I’ll just be that woman in the back, being her children’s biggest fan, and trying desperately not to miss another second.
I promise not to blink.
Kim Van Meter is a former full-time reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News; she continues to provide occasional columns.