Tonight as I was tucking the children in to bed, I told them that tomorrow would be the last day that they would ever be four years old. When they wake up on Wednesday, they will be five.
One full hand.
There were mixed emotions about this upcoming birthday. William told me that he was excited to grow up and be a man so he could grow a beard and drink beer. Both girls cried. Carolyn doesn't want to be a giant and Elizabeth wants to be my baby forever. While I held my daughters in my arms, I whispered that they wouldn't ever be giants. But if by some freak chance they were, they would still always be my babies.
But how did it happen that my babies are five years old?
This blog was started when they were 17-months old and they were just entering toddlerhood.
Does it really seem like that much time has passed?
I never realized little people could grow so quickly in five short years.
I'm absolutely certain that I went through these same reflective feelings last year just before their birthday. I'm sure I'll go through this every year.
But aside from their first birthday, this fifth year milestone is hitting me the hardest. Yes, I know the earth goes around the sun and a year passes. But how do they go from newborns to toddlers to preschoolers to ... FIVE ... so darn fast?
Five years from now they'll be TEN. And ten years from now they'll be FIFTEEN. And fifteen years from now, they'll be TWENTY. I'm a whiz at addition. It's the philosophy of all this that brings me to my knees. With each passing year, I see so clearly that the whole adage, "The days are long but the years are short" is painfully true.
These kids are growing up so fast.
Time has never before seemed so short.
Which is why tonight, I prepared dinner with one hand because Henry wanted to be held and I happily obliged, until my left arm went completely numb. And when I put him down and he buried his head in my legs, I rubbed his hair and then scooped him up in my right arm, to hold him some more.
It's the reason that all day today, I intensely cuddled my children by flipping them up and in to my arms and smothering them in kisses until they begged me to stop. It's the reason I snapped off almost 100 pictures while they sat around the table doing something as mundane as eat spaghetti. It's the reason I gave every one two (and the boys three) small helpings of ice cream.
Unlike most nights, tonight I didn't get frustrated that Elizabeth got up from the table ten times to get a napkin. And a spoon. And a fork. And a spoon for her sister. And a spoon for her brother. And look at birds out the window. And climb under the table to pick up the bread that Henry dropped. And the spoons that her siblings dropped. And go potty. Twice.
Tonight, I just reveled in their littleness. Because they are little. They have little arms and little legs and little hands and little feet. And little voices that quite often drive me bat crazy throughout the day, but tonight, those little voices were music. Even when they were screaming that someone touched something about who the heck knows what. Where am I?
Tonight, I kept thinking that five years ago at this very moment, they were still completely dependent upon my body - and now - they are fully capable of getting dressed, putting on their shoes and flushing the toilet. Sure, most days they don't do ANY of those things, but I know that they could if they wanted. And soon enough, I'm sure they will want to do all of those things without any prompting from me. And when that happens, I doubt I'll be able to fling them over my shoulder and smother them in kisses.
How much longer will it be, that I can carry them at all?
Tonight, I didn't care that the house was flipped upside down from their riotous playing. I didn't care that I would have at least an hour of cleaning up before I could go to bed. I didn't even care about the multiple piles of laundry that were generated this afternoon.
Tonight I just sat and reflected over the past five years and I sent up the most heartfelt prayer I have in a long time. It went something like this, "Dear God, I know that you can't slow down time, but in lieu of that, could you please slow me down so that I can enjoy all of these awesome moments that much more?"
Tomorrow, I'll be heading out of town for a few days. I had been really torn about what to do, because my career obligations were pulling me in one direction, while what I perceived to be my family obligations were pulling me in the exact opposite direction. After a lot of genuine reflection, I finally made a decision. While it seemed like a very difficult decision to make at the time, I now see that it was the only decision I could have made.
And well. Now that my introspection has come to an end and I'm looking around at the absolute disaster our children have created and which I am responsible for cleaning up, because otherwise it will grow ten times worse overnight, I'm going to send up another heartfelt prayer for one of these Dr. Seuss contraptions to appear out of thin air.
Mercy these children can make a mess.
Perhaps I need two.