When I was a child, I longed to be older, to grow up. I climbed to the dizzy height of my treehouse, gazed out toward the lake, and dreamed of bigger things. I never knew I would miss that treehouse so much, even if it was only a few boards from an old fence dragged laboriously up the tree, one at a time.
When I finished high school, I could barely wait to be in college. At college, I imagined I would enjoy life more as a sophomore, or junior, or senior. I thought once I graduated, life would really begin. I didn't realize what an incredible period college was, where all my friends and mentors were in one place and not busy all the time, until it was almost time to leave.
When I was single, I was lonely and hoped I'd meet someone. Once I met someone, I was always wanting to define the relationship, not realizing he was courting me in his own original, hesitant way. When we were finally in a relationship, we walked arm in arm against the wind and dreamed of having a place of our own out of the cold. I didn't know how much I would miss those long walks, where we could talk and talk with all the time in the world. It didn't occur to me that in our own place, I wouldn't have the wind to blow me into the state of elation I lived in then.
When I was pregnant, I literally counted every day. I didn't realize that I was wishing for the end of the only time we would have for a long time as just the two of us.
Now I warn others in stages of life that I hurried past. "Enjoy it!" I urge them. "No hurry! The future will be here before you know it; live in the present!" And yet they never seem to listen. I tell dating girls not to stress about when the guy will propose: "Now is the time to build up your relationship and get yourselves in a good financial position. You don't want to marry before you're really ready!" I tell girls who haven't gotten pregnant, "You'll never be this free again, spend some time fixing up your house the way you want it and learning to cook!" I tell expectant parents, "The due date's just an estimate, so don't count days! Go out on a date, it'll be forever before you can again!"
And they don't listen to me. They probably know I'm right, but it's just so hard to stop counting days. To stop wanting a little more than what they have, imagining that life will get so much better in some number of days.
When Marko was born, he was tiny and precious and everyone told me, "Enjoy it! It lasts such a short time!" I looked at my tiny peanut and settled in for the long haul. I didn't want to spend too much time just staring at him, because then when would I get things done? I didn't want to wait too long before getting out again, because sooner or later I was going to have to get used to taking him out. I was looking forward to him learning to smile and sleeping through the night.
Around the time he did these things -- about six weeks old -- I had a moment of utter shock. They said fast, but no one had said six weeks. I kind of thought the newborn stage was pretty much what things were like for several months. But I looked at my baby and he didn't look a thing like he had when I first held him in my arms. He was so big! Where had the tiny one gone?
He is gone. Tiny Marko will never come again. I will never have a chance to watch him sleep in the fold of my elbow ever again.
I could spend time sniffling over that. (I may have done this a little.) Or I could get impatient for the next one. (I've done this some too.) But it's occurred to me that two, three, four months from now, I'll be crying out, "Where is crawling Marko? Where's the little guy who took those first, hesitant, staggering steps and fell into my arms shrieking with laughter?"
So let me never again be a counter of days. Let me look at my boy today and love him today. Yesterday I laid him down for a nap, but didn't feel like sleeping myself. I could have gotten up to do something. But instead I just lay there with him snuggled into my arm and watched him sleep. He will soon be too big to sleep with his head on my arm. A month ago, he didn't look like the big boy he does today. A month from now, he may not sleep in his baby way with his head turned toward me, making sure I'm there. I have only today to love my son.