Motherhood Mantras: It Goes By Fast

This post is part of a series called “Motherhood Mantras.” To read more about the series, and the full list of writers, click here.

I held my tiny daughter in my arms while trying to haul my luggage off the airplane. The task was nearly impossible with only one set of arms, and just when I figured out how I would negotiate the car seat, blanket, and toys, a businessman behind me began sighing with loud impatience. I rolled my eyes thinking, These people can’t wait five seconds for me to get my gear together? Five seconds? There’s no civility left in the world. When I reached for my daughter’s doll and stuffed it in my backback, I heard him mutter, “Gaawd.”

I began to formulate my retort, sharpening my tongue for a lashing, something to let him know that neither he nor his precious time was nearly as important as he thought they were. I turned around and tried to look him straight in the eye, but I saw that he was already looking away in indignant shame. Then I saw another parent, giving him an incensed evil glare. She didn’t even have to open her mouth. She had one of those powerful looks that only a mom could perfect. I smiled.

When we finally got off the plane, the other mother reached out and said in a soft southern drawl, “It goes by quickly. It doesn’t seem like it. I know. But my son’s eighteen now. It’s hard sometimes, but try to squeeze every moment of joy out of it that you can.” Her sweetness to me was as intense as her fury to the businessman.

It was true. Time bends in strange ways during those first years of motherhood, but there were plenty of strangers who let me know: “It goes by so quickly. I know it’s hard but try to enjoy it.” Or, “You probably hear this all the time, but all happens in an instant. Savor it, if you can.” A good friend told me, “The days are long and the years are short.”

And so my mantra became,

It goes by fast, savor it as much as you are able.

I said it, when my daughter woke up in the middle of the night, hungry for milk. Even though I felt exhausted with work and housework, I learned to breathe in that smell from the top of her head and appreciate the quiet of the small morning hours.

I learned to negotiate dinnertime. When my daughter felt fussy in the flurry of meal prep, my husband and I learned to grab a snack and take her for a walk in a park instead. The madness of five o’clock in the afternoon became one of my favorite times, when we learned to eat a bit later.

I also loved pastoring a small congregation, who took delight in having her around the office. I learned to bounce the Snugglie on my chest as I read my texts for the upcoming Sunday.

It wasn’t all perfect, of course. But even with the frustrations, I tried to savor every moment. And I still do.

It goes by fast. Savor it as much as you are able.

Carol Howard Merritt is a pastor at Western Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. She is the author of Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation and Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation. She blogs at Tribal Church and co-hosts God Complex Radio with Derrick Weston.

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