A few weeks back it happened.
The reality of it caught me off guard.
A simple phrase used by many and realized daily by parents.
Watching through the viewfinder of my camera as my son stepped up onto a starting block for his swim meet. Reality ... I blinked.
Just like a scene from a movie, my mind, my memory, saw a chubby six-year-old. His goggles tight to his face, a determined glare on his face, staring down Lane 3 as he prepared to enter the pool.
As quickly as the image engulfed my memory, the reality of what my eye saw came into focus. Now standing five-foot-ten and eight years later, I spied a lean young man. Gone was the glare of determination. Replaced by a sense of ease and confidence, as he positioned his feet, awaiting the start buzzer.
I quickly wiped some wetness from an eye and repositioned my viewfinder. Another parent caught me, as I did so. Together we began reminiscing and marveling over the quickness of it all.
I then thought of all the other parents in similar cases, watching a child literally grow before your very eyes, while carting them to a regular activity. In this case, my son has grown up in a pool. For others it might be little league, football, gymnastics or even scouts, yet the reality is still there.
Then I thought of the coming school year. The annual first day of school photo, the shock once again that as hard as I try to live in each moment, time just passes too quickly. They grow when they sleep. And in the instance of my oldest, he’s spent a lot of time sleeping the past two summers.
Later, I spoke with a friend about all the parenting advice we seem to get before or early into our years as mommies. It seems advice comes fast and furious, mostly aimed at the first five years; beyond that it seems pretty quiet.
Not many prepare you (or how could they) for that moment you peer through your camera to see a little boy turned young man. Oh sure, I’ve been told countless times to take it all in, as it seems to fly by. Now living it however, I feel ill prepared.
As the oldest, my son is a bit of a trouper. Recognizing mom is having a bit of a struggle accepting I no longer need to walk him to class (that’s slight sarcasm) and that yes indeed he’s old enough to handle numerous things without his mommy. That’s tough.
Navigating forward, I try and stay as present as I possibly can and yes, appreciate the small stuff. The idea that he and his sister still get excited to take a trip to Costco with mom. The simple pleasure of scheduling a family game night and hearing them discuss their options. These, these are the moments which are fleeting. They are also the moments that I recognize they will someday look back on with fond memory, just as I did with my own mother.
As for that moment through the viewfinder, I don’t know that I could ever have been properly prepared for that visual transformation. I also recognize I will likely live it again, as my daughter continues to mature and her looks also morph. It’s just hard.
Yet there is reward in it and for that I am grateful. To witness who they are shaping to be as members of society is indeed a proud moment. To see them exude confidence and kindness to others, rewarding. To hear acknowledgement from friends at the people they are shaping to be, humbling.
Yet the image of that once chubby six-year-old, goggles pressed to face, climbing from a pool post event stating, “I’m going to talk to coach mommy,” those are the moments I’ll miss, yet am grateful to have lived.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.