“Put your feet together. Stand up tall,” her dad instructed, pushing her head gently towards the wall with the palm of his hand. I fished a pencil out of the drawer.
“OK, now hold still…”
As if we needed to tell her. The kid barely breathed, acting as though this was some phenomenal test, and not merely our regular height-measuring custom.
A half-dozen or so pencil marks line one wall in the kitchen, the scribbled dates beside them serving as testaments to our eldest daughter’s evolution from baby, to toddler, to… what? Little girl? Already?
“An inch!” Craig exclaimed, as we three gawked at the newest pencil line. Elle grinned, proud of her accomplishment.
Indeed, Elle had grown an inch since our last measurement – which, we noted, had only been six weeks ago.
You know how people say there’s a different timeline for dogs than for people? “Well, he’s 86 in dog years….” The same premise applies with kids – at least in the way that time seems to exist in a different dimension for kids than it does for adults.
I think of it like this: Six weeks is nothing in an adult’s timeline. About the only thing that has changed with me over the course of the last six weeks is that my toenails need a pedicure.
Meanwhile, over the course of the last six weeks, my oldest daughter has grown an inch, and can now say things like “I would rather have a snack than go outside” and “I am not tired, I’m just grumpy.”
And the new baby? Six weeks is equivalent to nearly half of her life! In six weeks, Emme has transformed from a mewling bundle who could barely uncurl her skinny fingers from a fist to a now-wide awake little human being who smiles at those funny people making faces at her all the time, and reaches out to touch my face when we lie side-by-side in bed in the morning.
Elle was once as small and dependent as Emme, I sometimes take a breath and realize, and that was only two short years ago. What does the next two years have in store? Or even the next six weeks?
It is easy to feel swept away by the hectic whirlwind that is life when you’re the parent of two small children. My days seem consumed by the seemingly interminable cycle of feeding, bathing and putting children to sleep, and cleaning, organizing and arranging their various things, while trying to sneak in some time to work, exercise or hanging out with my husband.
When will it ever end? I sometimes wonder, despairingly, when one kid is screaming to be fed, another reached the tired-and-grumpy threshold hours ago, and I realize there are four loads-worth of clean laundry still sitting in piles downstairs, waiting to be folded. So much for that pedicure.
But then I lay down next to Emme, and for a moment everything stops. She reaches her wobbly little hand out to me and grazes her fingers against my cheek. Or Elle snuggles into my lap, telling me that she missed me “so much” while she slept, and that she dreamt about fishing, and that “to-this-day” (or today, in adult language) she’s going to go meet her friends at the hotel. (In about 15 years, I imagine any plan – imaginary or not – having to do with Elle meeting friends at a hotel won’t make me laugh, as it does today).
It is in these fleeting moments, in which my adult timeline converges with those of my children, that I realize I must cherish the time I have with my kids when they are this young. It is in these moments that I realize that the joy of raising children is not only found in the finished product, but also in the ongoing process. In these moments, I understand that someday soon Elle will say “today,” not “to-this-day.” And someday soon, we’ll be measuring Baby Emme against the wall, commenting on how much she’s grown.
Life as the parent of two young children is consuming, no doubt, but it doesn’t last forever. And when it’s over, I know I’ll miss some part of this craziness; especially a baby’s touch and a toddler’s conversation.