I thought I kept my car clean and tidy…until my husband walked in the door, waved a diaper in the air and said, “Hey, look what I found in the trunk!” It was quite a surprise — with our kids being 10 and 7 years old, the diaper era is long gone for us.
I placed the diaper on the kitchen counter. I stared at it and felt a sense of relief and a hint of joy. Memories started to flood my mind, and I thought, Boy, how I don’t miss those diapers. How I don’t miss the sleepless nights. I used to joke around and say that my babies had a unique “no sleep” gene. It was a period of five years that my nights were occupied by breastfeeding, changing diapers, rocking babies, monitoring fever, cleaning vomit and such — basically, constant interrupted sleep.
I then felt a tug in my tummy and other memories started to stream into my mind: Aww…how I miss the warmth of their little bodies next to mine. How I miss opening my eyes in the morning to the sight of their beautiful, peaceful faces. How I miss their sweet baby scent, their glowing smiles and their innocence. How I miss the monumental milestones that engulf a parent’s heart with pride and joy.
A few days earlier, my husband and I went on a rare road trip with just the two of us. After about an hour of an unusual quiet drive, he looked at me and said with a tone of concern in his voice, “Wow, soon the kids will not want to spend the weekends with us. What are we going to do?” It was a startling realization. I replied that I didn’t know and added that we will figure it out and maybe we should just do what we used to do before we had kids.
A part of me felt a sense of liberation. My husband and I made countless memories traveling and exploring away in our pre-kids days. Recapturing those days sounded appealing. Another part of me felt very sad and nostalgic: I couldn’t imagine our weekends not revolving around our kids. I could only imagine how much I will miss their constant presence.
A few days later, I found myself staring at the long lost diaper. It was a stark reminder that the only constant in life is change. It is the essence of life. Clearly, we witness our kids grow, develop and change right in front of our eyes. The challenges, the rewards and the joys of parenthood never cease to exist. They only change.
Today, with the exception of infrequent nights occupied with worry or our nocturnal pets keeping us up, our nights are quiet and restful. Gone are the sleepless nights, the separation anxiety and what at times felt like suffocating dependency. Nowadays, hovering around are challenges of a different kind: Discipline, sibling bickering and school. Today’s priceless rewards include: observing our kids become independent and confident beings, watching them foster their own unique personalities and forge strong friendships, and most of all, I marvel at their ability to face their own challenges, strive and overcome.
Every age and every stage bring a unique set of challenges and blessings. Much like a rose, with all its beauty and blossom, it has thorns. I am facing the challenges comforted by knowing that they too will pass. I am experiencing the blessings and rewards recognizing that they will likely be nostalgic in the future.
The one constant frame is the unconditional commitment and love that comes with the role of being a parent. And, possibly if I can embrace it all, I can endure and treasure the present as well as the future with all that it has to offer.