The well-meaning older women in the grocery store line would always tell me it went by so fast, and I’d smile thinly while seething inside because it definitely didn’t seem to be going quickly. My baby was only 3 months old, and it seemed like those 3 months had been the longest of my life. She wailed every time I tried to set her down; she had horrible reflux, which meant that she would wake up ravenously hungry and I had to force a dropperful of disgusting reflux medicine down her throat and then wait 30 minutes for it to kick in, her screaming with rage and hunger the whole time; she only slept in someone’s arms, which meant that her dad and I split the night into 4-hour chunks, which meant that in reality I only was getting about three hours of sleep on a good night. I remember sitting up with her at 2 a.m., in the days before Netflix and Hulu and DVRs, watching the long-form real estate ads that were on TV in the wee hours after even the cable channels stopped showing actual shows. I lived on coffee and still I once fell asleep at a red light.
“She’s precious,” the woman at Target told me while her teenage daughter rolled her eyes. “Enjoy her holding your hand while you can.”
My daughter was 3 by then, and I still didn’t believe it would go quickly. I loved holding her hand, yes, but it was often sticky and gross, and that day at Target had been a battle royale over toys, snacks, character Band-Aids, and probably 15 other things. Every night when she was 3, I would count the minutes until bedtime (and then I would stand and watch her sleep).
She turned 4 and then 5. She started real school (pre-K) and then real grades with numbers (first, second) and then real grades that gave real grades (A, B, C). Suddenly she was in fifth grade and then she was in middle school. The days were going very fast by then. She spent most of her weekends at friends’ houses or football games or parties.
“It’s warp speed from here on out,” said my friend, who already had two teenagers.
“I know,” I said. “I can already tell. How is it all going so fast?”
When she turned 9, I laughed and told her I was halfway done raising her, but I didn’t really know what that meant. She is now just months away from being 14. The five years since she turned 9 seem like five months somehow. The idea that I only have four more years until she is an adult is unfathomable.
I just submitted her high school application (but she was just in kindergarten). She’s getting braces (but she was just losing teeth). She’s talking about driver’s ed (but she was just in a car seat).
I turned 40 two weeks ago, and it didn’t really hit me that hard. But her high school application? Man, that one got me.
I don’t go to the grocery store or Target anymore, but I saw a woman with a tiny baby walking down my block the other night and I couldn’t help myself.
“I’m sorry for saying this,” I yelled at her from my porch, “because I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but believe me, please: It goes by so fast.”
She looked over her shoulder at me and smiled thinly.
“I believe you,” she said.
She didn’t. She doesn’t. But she will.