I think nearly everybody comes to the same conclusion as they get older: time goes quickly. When you look back from a far enough distance, everything is foreshortened. The long twelve months of the year 2020. The everlasting nights when you woke up every two hours to feed a baby. The ninth month of pregnancy. Or the days between knowing you get to adopt and then taking that beloved human home for the first night. Grad school. High school even. The never-ending night after you broke up with your first girlfriend or boyfriend. Things lose their length in hindsight. Things in the mirror are closer than they appear.
But we say this about parenting more than anything else. Enjoy every moment. The years fly by. Blink and it’s over. One day they’re babies and the next they’re going off to college. It might all be as true as Moses but that doesn’t help the days that feel everlasting right here, right now, washing out this poopy underwear or biting your tongue because having “helpers” in the kitchen is the misnomer of the year, or maybe the century.
However fast the years may be going for the mom-turned-grandma, they’re slow for me. And maybe there’s actually an enchanted blink you make sometime and bam, they’re literally in high school a second later. I have not discovered this. In the meantime, the seconds are long and the minutes are long and the days are long. Hindsight shortens but the present lengthens enough to balance it out, apparently. And no matter how delightful or funny or obedient or enjoyable my two babes are for much of the time, there’s still much that’s otherwise. Enjoying every moment sounds helpful and typical and trite and it sounds impossible. It is impossible. So I have learned to set my sights on a different goal.
We don’t enjoy every moment. But we do try to laugh every day. I remember when I was mama to a baby just trying out laughter, him just beginning to understand bubbly joy and the glimmerings of humor. He laughed when we swung him up in the air. He laughed when we played peek-a-boo. He laughed when we jumped up and down or danced around the kitchen or tipped him upside down. And I began to try to find all the ways I could to make him laugh, because they were fleeting. Shaking the Pooh rattle one day was just right and a week later he’d want nothing to do with it. Singing in a silly voice at bedtime was funny for a while, and later it was jumping jacks when I did my exercise, or crawling around on the floor with him, or letting him try to hold a door closed against me.
But day by day, the laughs stacked up. We moved from silly movements and mimes to running in circles together or tickling his nose with aspen leaves in the fall. We swooped his booted toes into the snow through the winter and tickled his cheeks when he sat in the swing at the park. Now we make silly faces and race our Hotwheels cars around the roads printed on a play mat in his room. We crash old tonka trucks into each other and mimic each other’s silly faces. I tickle his nose with the pompom of his winter hat. He says “hotdog-uh” in a funny voice. A well-timed tickle on his collarbones still doubles him over with giggles, and when I get the hiccups, he says, “Mommy, are you… are you.. Are you hiking up?” and we both begin to laugh. I’m not the only one trying to bring out the giggles anymore. But our laughter is still piling up. One memory at a time. Each day I hunt it down, that moment of joy, of unrestrained mirth.
I do it because there is freedom in laughter. There is joy in laughter. There is relationship and humor and comfort and restoration and reconciliation. These are the things I want for my babies. I want to have a bond within which we can laugh, over and over and over. I want us to be comfortable with each other. I want to find joy with them, humor with them, restoration, enjoyment, a life-long series of good times together with which we can weather the bad.
We don’t laugh all day, every day. Sometimes it’s a real struggle. I’m in a mood. He’s in a mood. Baby Girl might even be in a mood. The way she holds a piece of plum or pie or potato out over the floor and prepares to drop it while she stares me dead in the eye would try the patience of a saint. But most days, even with the whining or the food-dropping or the days when I’ve just barely gotten any sleep and we’re running from the grocery store to the play-date and back again for naps – even then we can find a moment to laugh. Maybe it’s the sheer joy of spotting a train when we were playing I Spy. Maybe it’s the nose-wrinkling way Baby Girl grinned when we babbled at her that brings me and the toddler a laugh. Maybe it’s a tickle war or wrestling or crashing the toy cars gleefully over and over until a finger gets pinched. Somehow. An opportunity rises, and if it doesn’t I create one, and if even that feels like a stretch I help him to create one. Laughter matters like that. No matter how quickly the years might just fly by or pass in that one wild blink, no matter that we’ll always be told to enjoy every moment and we’ll never be able to achieve it – no matter. We have laughter, and we have a lot of it.