The passage of time is so painful at times. This week my heart has been full of grief as I prepared for my oldest child to turn 10. Joy for who he is and who he is becoming did not stave off the squeeze of pain I felt knowing his babyhood is gone and he will be a man in two blinks. Considering this, I sat for an entire hour alone at a restaurant the day before his birthday flipping through old photographs on my phone and choking back tears.
Nine has proven to be such a delightful age. My husband and I have seen enormous growth in our eldest over the years, and we love to recount to him what a rambunctious and spirited toddler he was. Now he is marked by self-control, by kindness, and by loyalty.
25-year-old Rachel wouldn’t have believed this kind of growth was possible in a human in such a short time span.
And while it is so fun to celebrate growth (and even without growth just to celebrate him) it always pains me on my kids’ birthdays to mark another year that has passed that I can’t get back. I love where I am with them in life. I love having a boy in my house who is emulating my husband in the ways he is becoming a helper to me, even anticipating some needs of mine, and making me laugh like a friend. I don’t *actually* want to #stoptime, but I absolutely do wish I could bottle it up, press pause, and come back to relive whenever I see fit. I wish I could live my last decade 1,000 times – even the hard parts – and relive some on slow motion.
I think this is why we can’t stop ourselves from saying trite things like “it goes so fast” or “your kids have grown so much” to each other. It can feel at times like life is passing on warp speed, so quickly that I can’t even keep up with the joys of it. I say this carefully as my last year has also been full of deep pain, but the beauty in it astounds me even amidst the heartache.
Or maybe the heartache is actually what helps us to see the beauty more clearly. In every joy there tends to be some bittersweet, some grief because the joy has to end. My daughter cried herself to sleep on her eighth birthday earlier this year because her birthday was over. Growing up, Christmas was my favorite morning of the year, but Christmas Day at 8pm might have been the most disappointing – because it was over.
So maybe the joy of age 10 and the heartache of it passing helps ground me in reality and be thankful for whom I have in my life at this moment. Maybe my losses help me hold my loved ones tighter, because they are still here to hug. Let it be so!
I don’t regret the hour I let my heart feel the squeeze of looking back at baby pictures. They made me press into the joy the next day as the boy who made me a mama reached a decade; reached double digits.
And as much as I want to put all the moments in a bottle to slow-mo them whenever I want, I will have to settle for writing down what I see in my kids today, so I can flip back and chart the growth and be thankful.
Joyful despite the ache.