And Then

They say the days are long but the years are short, which is little consolation for a mother whose baby just spit up down the back of her shirt and whose toddler is attempting to extract poop from a pull-up in order to put it in the potty and earn a chocolate candy. Most days I think the days are long but the hours are longer.

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And then.

And then your baby asks to be carried to bed and her limp, tired body is almost more than you can carry. Her long, muscular arms drape over your shoulders and reach all the way down your back. The sweet, doughy rolls of infancy have given way to sinewy limbs adorned with Paw Patrol stickers and leftover bubble juice.

Her breath is warm and soft, her rosy cheeks speckled with rash from the harsh, Maine wind.

The contrast is stark. Especially with the new baby, purring softly away in her swing downstairs. Her plump, dimpled body fitting comfortably in the crook of an elbow.

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And then I think, how did we get here?

How did the tiny baby that I carried across my chest for so many long, long days turn into the child draped sleepily over my shoulder, her toes bouncing against my knees. Her babyhood shed like the leftover skin of a snake.

How could a toddling, babbling toddler turn into a child overnight, when I’ve been raising her – waking her, dressing her, washing her, holding her – every single day of her life?

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I turn my cheek against hers and breathe in the sour smell of milk and elderberry syrup, and dirt from the overgrown garden out back. I pause here, just for a minute, because in an instant it will be gone.

It will be a fight about using the potty. A battle over how many books. Sixteen one-last-kisses and then suddenly my two year old will be three. And then four and fourteen.

They say the days are long but the years are short. And this, I believe, is the greatest challenge of motherhood. To watch the days turn into years before they even turn into nights.

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