Right now life feels so full. Full of stress, full of action, full of decisions that seem so important. And the wheels keep turning – it seems as though there’s always something to start worrying about. It’s true that when we look back, we seem to remember events not just as they were, but enhanced by a nostalgic optimism; its as if experience dulls our youthful spirit just a little each year and reliving memories reminds us that its still there.
I can’t imagine being you, in ten years, looking back on the life that I’m living right now. Partly because I can’t imagine having the presence of mind or the time to indulge in such nostalgia. And also because I can’t imagine a time when these two little souls don’t need daily, hourly or up to the minute (at times) guidance. I can’t imagine them growing so big that they start to think about driving, socialising, maybe even which career option to undertake. But I know it will happen.
So here is what I want you to remember when you have time to look back and reminisce over the life you have built.
Life was busy. It was terrifying to think that we were responsible for building two humans and preparing them to be fully functional independent units. It was overwhelming to know that of the hundreds of decisions we make on their behalf daily, any one of them could be life altering because we don’t know, like you do, what comes next.
That part you’ll probably forget as you look back through glasses coloured in a deep rose hue. It’s easy to do. I imagine you’ll look at photos of the oldest one looking so sensible in his school uniform and so serious in his rugby team photo. But don’t forget that right before that team photo he was wrestling in the mud and you were frantically trying to stop him from mucking up his uniform so in ten years time this moment would be artfully preserved. Looking at the photo now, it wasn’t preserved at all, but its still just as precious. It seemed so serious, so important at the time that he fall into line like the other kids mostly did. It probably doesn’t matter so much now.
It must be easy to forget the reluctant smile on his teachers face as she watches him get into trouble before school from the teacher on duty, and even easier not to remember that she was smiling because despite all the playground scuffles she knew he was a really great kid.
He was a really great kid. I bet he still is no matter what decisions you’ve made over the last ten years.
And the little one. Don’t forget that she had an imagination even bigger than her heart. That she loved to sing and most of all, she wanted to make people happy. Its probably easy to forget how nuanced she was; how much more there was to her than princesses and tutus. That she loved to laugh and found silly things side-splittingly funny. Like Paddington Bear surfing down the stairs after drinking toilet water, even after seeing the movie a hundred times.
It’s probably difficult to imagine it now, but she used to climb on top of the car every morning when we left the house. It drove you crazy because it always felt like you were running really late and once the day was a few minutes behind schedule you would be chasing all day.
It was worth it being late. Don’t forget that. Knowing that she was exerting her independence may have felt tiring at the time, but seeing her do it still made you happy.
And do you remember that the oldest made himself breakfast every day, while the youngest came in begging for chocolate each morning? Or that the growing boy just couldn’t sit still ever – not even for a moment – but the cheeky girl loved to have her back rubbed as she fell asleep? I suppose you’ve forgotten the moments in between everything that made it all so good – the DVD nights, the backyard rugby, the learning to ride bikes and endless pretend tea parties?
It feels like a whirlwind right now, but I hope you in the future remember the truly important parts. Not the frazzled bit before the rugby photo but the moment he saw it for the first time and smiled proudly to be part of a team he loved. And not the running late, but the surge of pride to have a kid that wants to do things her own way even if you end up chasing all day.
Photos only capture one of a billion moments. They’re beautiful, but they don’t tell the whole story. Don’t forget the whole story, especially not the bits that made it your story.
I bet the last ten years have brought with them myriad emotions, challenges and successes and I bet looking back on them reminds you of how wonderful things were. You can take the rose tinted glasses off – you don’t need them. Even if for moments it felt overwhelming, things were pretty great without them.