My children aren’t children anymore. My daughter is a junior in college and my son a senior in high school. He has a rock band, she lives in New York and this summer we’re together in Los Angeles. The joy of parenting older children is equal to the joy of parenting younger children but one thing is very different. As an older parent I am acutely aware that this summer of 2011, when the whole family is living under the same roof, will quickly pass because everything does. Nothing lasts forever.
My son took a couple of music classes at UCLA this summer and Friday was his last day. There was a vocal recital and, unlike all the recitals that have come before, parents weren’t included. It made sense that we weren’t included, after all this was a college course, not a child’s piano recital, elementary school gathering, or holiday concert. But I still wanted to hear the song that he sang so, sitting at the kitchen table after dinner, I asked him to sing it. He refused at first but my husband offered to back him up on the guitar and, before I knew it, they were playing and singing. It was a blissful moment and my awareness of the fact that it would not last forever made it feel like joy on steroids.
That night, I read an email from Arianna about her new parenting section in which she wrote “say whatever’s on your mind.” And what immediately came to mind was a similar moment 14 years ago when her daughter and my daughter, who were classmates at the time, were making Christmas wreaths for their babysitters in the same kitchen and at the same table. It felt like déjà vu. The same flash of joy I felt at the table listening to the guitars this weekend was the same flash of joy I felt 14 years ago watching our daughters decorate their wreaths. Even as a young mom, somewhere deep down, I knew that it wouldn’t last forever.
If I had to identify one thing I’d like to say to younger parents right now, this would be it: Knowing that nothing lasts forever doesn’t have to be sad and depressing. Knowing that nothing lasts forever is a source of great joy. When parenting gets rough, remind yourself that this too shall pass. When parenting is joyful, remind yourself that this too shall pass. Nothing lasts forever can be the mantra you use to justify putting aside the work, chores, planning, organizing and other heavy-lifting of parenting to be there for the guitar playing, wreath making, recitals, ball games, birthdays, bath times, bed times, laughter and tears. Remembering that nothing lasts forever can be the extra push that makes being fully present with your family, for whom you’re doing all that heavy-lifting in the first place, your first priority.