There are some moments in parenthood you just know you’ll remember.
The big ones of course. You’ll remember the excitement of catching your baby’s first steps on video or all the beauty and commotion from the day they were born. And you’ll likely have timestamps associated with these big memories from photos or notes, taking the work load off of you brain in terms of remembering when they happened.
But there will be the small ones that you’ll remember, too—even without documentation.
These tiny moments will stay with you despite the busyness and chaos of everything else going on. You may not remember what date your baby slept through the night, but you’ll remember how that made you feel. (Um, amazing.) You may not remember what day of the week your little one said “I love you” for the first time, but that feeling of pure and utter joy will be seared onto your heart for the rest of your life.
Similarly to these sweet, touching moments of motherhood, you’ll never forget feeling your heart drop into your stomach the moment you turned around and didn’t see them right away. You’ll also never forget how hard you laughed the time you found them in the kitchen with just their diaper on, sitting on the floor covered in chocolate from the M&M’s they were shoving into their mouth.
The milestones may get the specifics like dates and locations and exact ages, but the ordinary, everyday bits of our lives will be preserved and protected in our hearts by a wide range of feelings. We will remember the event by feeling it inside of us.
Last night we experienced one of these ordinary moments.
We were lounging on the couch, post-bedtime, watching The Handmaid’s Tale, when we heard a thud and then the quick pitter-patter of what I knew was our 3-year-old’s feet. Usually when we hear that noise it leads right to us in the living room—but not last night.
Last night, we heard the thud and the pitter-patter and then… nothing. We both hopped up to confirm what our suspicions suspected: She got up—by herself!—to go to the bathroom.
Now again, this may sound very ordinary. Like, if you have to pee, you go to the bathroom, right? But you’re not born knowing how to do that. One needs to learn. And so, we’ve been in the process of helping our daughter wake up through the night to go to the bathroom so that we could ditch the nighttime diaper and eliminate accidents through the night. Each night we’ve been waking her up and placing her on the toilet letting her know it was time to pee. She’d go, we’d tuck her back into bed, and then we’d be off to sleep ourselves.
But last night, she didn’t need the assist! And while it seems simple, I can’t tell you how proud I was to look into the bathroom and see her sleepy self—cute little owl pjs, messy, curly bedhead and all—sitting on that toilet proud as a pickle.
This is one of those in between moments. It’s not something I documented with a photo, but it is a feeling of pride that I filed away somewhere between what it feels like to hold an 18-month-old’s hand and what it feels like to have the whole family piled in your bed laughing on a Saturday morning.
These moments of their childhood—big and small—are fleeting and I’m sometimes overwhelmed with how fast it’s all going. There have been times when I’ve felt like I’m going to lose it because they won’t be this little forever and I don’t want to forget anything or miss anything and one day they’re going to be full grown adults and they’ll move away from me and what am I going to do then?
But those moments have lessened. And I’m not sure what has changed exactly, but I am not as concerned anymore about documenting everything and obsessing over remembering everything and emotionally unraveling every now and then because they’re growing up and I can’t stop it.
Because they are—thankfully, beautifully, amazingly, they are growing up. I’m grateful for their healthy growth spurts and am in awe at their developing vocabularies and conversation skills. I am humbled by teaching them about life’s big lessons as they come up, like what you’re supposed to do when you get your feelings hurt by a friend or what happens when someone dies.
I know it’s tempting to want to hang onto these years forever. And I know we all worry about forgetting.
But we can’t. And we won’t.
You will never forget the smell of your newborn baby.
You will never forget the feeling of a small hand reaching up to touch your face.
You will never forget the sounds of full belly toddler giggles.
You will never forget watching the sweet way they write their name when they’re just learning.
You will never the sound of tiny baby snores.
Or the feeling of a sleeping child asleep on your shoulder.
This is my reminder to you. You won’t forget. Because even though our brains may not always remember everything, somehow our heart will give it the gentle nudge it needs.