When our boys were really young, well meaning friends and family liberally gave me advice on best parenting practices and sprinkled it with dustings of, "oh, it goes by so fast."
Most young moms I've known realize this is true, but are also sorta kinda vying for it to go as fast as others say it does so they can just simply take a shower or use the bathroom without an entourage.
And most of us young moms who aren't moms to really little people any longer realize with every passing year that, yeah, it just gets truer and truer. Time really does march on and the beat to which it marches only seems to quicken with every passing year.
This morning, my youngest son, who is five, was talking about next year when he goes to school every day and something about the way he said "every day" so casually made me pause and realize that those years of little are quickly coming to a close for him. He hurried me out of the car and out of my thoughts just moments later. As I walked him into his preschool class, my sweet little guy told me he loved me, gave me a hug and then was off and running.
After drop off, I sat in my empty car and stared into the blue winter sky simply thinking, when a song, I lived by One Republic, came across my speakers, and it made me pause long and wonder if I've really lived these days of little or if I merely just survived.
If I'm answering honestly, I'll admit that I really have just survived many days. Other days, I've lived and lived well, engaging in the moments, laughing and crying all within the same breath. I have my regrets. I have my doubts. I have my wishes for do overs.
But there's one thing I can honestly say I don't regret, one thing I did almost every day -- the survival and the thriving days alike -- that bring me tears of joy and thankfulness: I held these boys of mine.
I held them for hours and hours as small babies, nestled happily in my tired arms. I held them when they slept, and I held them when I was almost ready to pee my pants and my butt was asleep and I feared it might never wake again.
I carried their heavy toddler bodies when they insisted on being snuggled against me instead of walking. And I cuddled them when they didn't want to play solo.
I slept next to ninja-like preschoolers whose little bodies took up more than half of the king sized bed but who voiced the need for snuggles.
I held them. I held them close, and I held them long, and I held them often.
Despite the borage of noise that suggested maybe I should do less of it, I held them because my heart heard something loud and clear one day when my oldest son was a tiny little thing with a big old set of lungs who let us know his displeasure whenever I set him down.
As I sobbed, feeling trapped beneath a tiny tyrant while the housework piled higher and higher and higher, she whispered kindly, lovingly to me that there would always be dishes, always be messes and always be laundry. While it might look different at different times and stages of the game, the messes always would remain a constant in life.
But this boy wouldn't always be a baby, he wouldn't always be little thing who could fit snuggled in the space on my lap and be easily soothed by my mere presence alone.
I'm glad now that I didn't spend nearly as much time holding clean plates as I did holding these boys of mine when they were babies. I'm glad now that I let my toddlers have the place on my hip more often than the laundry baskets.
Yes, absolutely, some days it was a struggle to see beyond the mess and choose to hold my boys for just a bit longer. And some days I did less holding and more cleaning. And some days I did hours of holding only to football-pass a little body into my husband's arms and run out the door as soon as he arrived home from work.
But she was right, and I'm glad she told me.
Because the messes, yes, they remain. However those babies are now boys with long, lanky legs running and jumping, bodies spanning three fourths of my own body that pause only momentarily throughout the day to press quickly into me for a hug or kiss but are most often off and running to the next thing.
And when they're off and running, sometimes there's a little ache in the empty of my arms ... but mostly I feel thankful. Because now I'm just holding them differently much of the day.
I'm holding them in my heart.