When I became a mother I knew my children would grow up. I envisioned how proud I would be of them. The sense of accomplishment I would feel as I recalled our life together and all the little moments that made them into the people they would grow to become. Never would I be one of THOSE MOTHERS who possessively cling to their babies, refusing to let them change and mature. I praised myself for being such a strong, rational woman.
What an egotistical judgement. Sprung out of false pride and a bit of naivety, I suppose.
This afternoon I decided to reorganize some of the older posts on this blog. I needed to update the pictures with the family photos that I have accumulated over the past years of my girls and I.
Hand on my trackpad I travelled back in time, searching for the “perfect photo”. Three months. Six months. One year. 18 months. Birthdays. First steps. Cuddles. I saw the years I had already spent with them flash before my eyes. My oldest, now two and a half, was such a little baby back then.
Looking at her across the room from me, she was so big. Building a block tower. Playing doctor. I gasped. I could not recall her as a baby. My baby. She was once my baby. “Her little sister is the baby”, I thought. I hold her to such high standards. I had forgotten that at one time, she was the baby in my eyes.
The memories were documented in front of me, in numerous folders, but I could not remember them. I could not recall how it had felt to hug my big girl when she was just one. Or how she looked when she walked for the first time. Looking at these photos of her, it was as if I was looking at someone I had known once but could no longer remember.
It freaked me out. That revelation shook me to my core.
My breath quickened. Tears filled my eyes. I quickly left the room, before my girls could see me.
You see, I always knew my girls would grow up. It was going to happen. Someday. But not today! Not now. When it did happen I would have our memories. I would be able to recall our fondest moments, kept safe inside my mind like treasured photographs that I could pull out and admire as the years passed.
The truth was I could only remember our present. The past had become a blur. All the little smiles and giggles we shared. Our cuddles. Just a vague blur. It was as if my past with her had passed me by without me knowing it was gone.
I sobbed, mourning the loss of some of my most precious times with my girl. She was already growing. All the time. “It can’t be”, I whispered. I called my neighbor, who came over to console me. Though I calmed down I was still shaken.
Later that night when the kids had fallen asleep I turned to my husband, who is always a great source of comfort. “Joe”, I said through tears, “why can’t I remember them? What is wrong with me?”
“Nothing is wrong honey. It happens to everyone. They are growing all the time and so are you. You are growing with them in the present moment. So the past fades away.”
“But Joe! If I can’t remember my memories…..they’re gone. Our moments are gone. It’s as if they never happened at all.”
“It’s so sad.”
“I know…it is. It’s part of life. They will keep growing. They will have ups and downs. They will need us. They will push us away. They will no longer be babies someday. They will no longer be children someday. One day, they will leave. And we will not be able to remember many moments with them.”
I broke down in tears.
My husband came over and put his arms around me. “The most we can do is experience them now. Be here with them now. Because now is all we have.”
I am proud of my girls and who they grow into every day. I was not prepared to forget so much of who they were. I am not prepared for the revelation that I will continue to forget. But it is a part of being human. Of growing up. And growing old.
Nevertheless I will continue to love them. To be the best mother I can be for them. To live with them, fully, in the present moment. Hard as it may be, now is all we have.
Wishing it could be different will not make it so.