My oldest is graduating from college this May. I have a hard time believing this is where we’re at. The old cliché ‘time goes so fast’ is slapping me right in the face. I remember the first few days after I brought him home from the hospital. I had a mini freak-out over the fact that now I had a living clock lying in my arms. From that day forward I would be counting the days, weeks, months and years according to how old my baby boy was. I would never again be oblivious to the passing of time. It made me feel like I’d been caught red-handed by Father Time. “Oh no”, he said, “Even you can’t escape me”.
So on that day, I decided to make the most of each moment I had with my son. I put so much emphasis on each little change he went through. I poured my whole heart into teaching him everything I could. He was a smart little boy, soaking up each bit of information, hitting all the milestones early. I was so proud. I was doing a good job. But soon, my savoring turned into this disease called perfectionism. I was going to get this mommy thing right if it killed me.
This worked for a few years, until fast forward to three little boys under the age of five. I was starting to feel the cracks in my armor. Boy, was it exhausting throwing perfect Martha Stewart birthday parties, being room parent and taking the kids on a new outing every day! Not to mention, monitoring their diet carefully, following a strict schedule and disciplining them consistently. This mommy stuff was hard!!
Perfectionism didn’t loosen it’s grip on me until my fifth child was born seven years later. It was then that I had no choice but to cry “Uncle”! I finally realized that parenting was never going to match up to the vision I had in my head. So the funny thing is, I still do all the things I did before. Only now, when an outing I’ve planned goes to hell in a hand basket or a kid comes home with a D on a test, I don’t consider myself a failure. I’ve come to see that none of us has control over life, especially the lives we’ve created that are our children. We get caught up in the idea that our parenting skills are being graded on some invisible score board, and in that belief is the greatest curse of Father Time. Because all the energy we are using to make each moment perfect is a moment in time that we aren’t truly present with our kid.
So, as I reflect on the fact that my son is an adult now, soon to embark on his own life out in this great big world, I find myself wishing for a do-over. I wish I could go back and really be there with him and his siblings in each of the stages of his boyhood and savor the sweetness like I did in those first weeks after he was born, before I forgot that I didn’t have to be perfect.