It was an excruciatingly slow 10 minutes.
I had headed to my daughter’s to babysit my grandchildren for an hour or two but had been there for about 6. Mostly it had been fine, even fun, as my daughter was home and I had volunteered to “help” her with a craft. “Help” meaning raising my eyebrows, biting my tongue, and trying frantically to keep the baby and the 4-year-old out of trouble. And away from the super-glue. Far away from the super-glue.
But then my daughter realized that she had to leave for work early and left me alone with the children. I had been there 5 hours and was jet-lagged from a trip. And it was then, when the mother left, that my sweet little 4-year-old turned. Suddenly he became obstinate and stubborn. He had to play in the front yard, near the street. By himself. I should leave. Right now. Given that his uncle was due to drive into driveway any minute, and I needed to keep both the boy and the baby in sight, I wimped out and suggested going inside to watch a show.
No. The boy didn’t want to watch a show with ME. He wanted to wait for Uncle Josh. Meanwhile, the baby kept trying to walk down the cement steps. Desperate, I suggested the backyard hose. The 4-year-old reluctantly consented to that, which basically meant that he did his best to try to get me wet while looking longingly at the gate to the driveway. The baby, who had just been changed into a dry diaper, sat down happily in the large puddle made by the hose.
And Uncle Josh was 10 minutes late. Ten long, long minutes.
Well-meaning grandparents, myself included, frequently tell their children to cherish every minute. It’s over in the blink of an eye, we say.
Children do not universally appreciate this. At best, they roll their eyes. At worst, they wonder what’s wrong with them. Children mention that they don’t actually cherish the sleepless nights or the constant demands on their attention. They don’t love having three children who all want to be on top of them every minute of their lives, or the brutal night-time routine that happens every. single. night. It’s not going by in the blink of an eye, my child wails. Her days and nights seem to stretch on forever and ever. She does not cherish every moment.
(Although she’s actually little bi-polar about it. Some days she wants to have another baby…“You’ve got oxytocin poisoning,” I sniff.)
Still, there are reasons that I tell her, over and over, that it will be over in the blink of an eye. First, because it’s true. Or at least that how it feels to me, looking back…remembering. Things did get easier. My kids stopped crawling into my bed and keeping me awake at night. But they no longer snuggled. I no longer felt like a baby in my arms was just a part of who I was. I didn’t get to sniff their head. Or listen to them laugh.
Except that I got a second chance when I became a grandparent.
I’m thinking about this because I just went on a trip, the trip of a lifetime: an Alaskan cruise. But, in the few weeks before leaving, I was not looking forward to it. Instead, I was frantic with anxiety. What should I pack? I’m going to have to dress formally for dinner? I cried. Would I get heartburn? Would my plantar fascias flare up? Would the gigantic earthquake waiting beneath the surface of the West Coast happen the very moment that I landed in Vancouver? I was spinning out of control. But, mostly, I was anxious because I am heavily involved in my children and grandchildren’s lives. I babysit; I do school pick-ups; I take them to doctor appointments; I lend them my car when theirs’ is in the shop. I was worried that my children would have problems and I would be on the other side of the country and unable to help them.
So, (spoiler alert) there was no earthquake. And most of my other worries were also for naught. But my daughter told me that she did miss me. She told me that it had been a terrible 10 days. She said that I should NEVER leave her again. Particularly not during the two weeks of the month while her husband was working non-stop!
But, I know that it isn’t true. Because I know that it’s over in the blink of an eye.
And that’s the real reason that I say ‘it’s over in the blink of an eye.’ That’s why I say ‘cherish the moment.’ It’s because I’m talking to myself.