If I could revisit a time in my life, 2010 would be the exact year I'd blast back to. If scientists have already proven that time can bend, why is it so hard for them to figure out how to twist it in a way that transports us back to those moments of our past that we yearn for most?
In 2010 I just gave birth to our daughter. That year I became the mother of three children under the age of four. I had two boys and one girl. My life was pretty perfect in 2010. In that very year, I experienced a sense of fulfillment that came with motherhood that has been difficult to recreate, especially as our children continue to grow at record-breaking paces, leaving me distraught and anxious by the realization that one day soon they will be leaving the nest.
In 2010 we also moved into our current apartment. Since then, the memories have just flooded through its walls and permeated the air. As I watch old videos of our kids lately, perhaps an unhealthy new obsession, I watch their radiant faces and listen to their kiddie accents and I want so badly to reach into the screen and hold them so tightly that I gasp in pain from the harsh reality that I will never have those days again. Don't get me wrong, these days are equally incredible. In fact, every single stage of their childhood has been a blessing full of magical memories. It's just that as they have grown, an unwanted internal clock has been planted into my brain counting down the days before they leave us. How can they ever leave us?
Our two boys, who in 2010 were tiny little people, now tower over me. Their feet have gotten so enormous, providing clues into how much more growing awaits them. Our middle son who once playfully boasted about "going to hugging school" to explain where he learned all his mushiness and mastery of cuddles, now barely wants to be touched. Just last June I was still tucking him into bed, hugging him closely under the blankets as we shared secrets and as I sang him our usual bedtime lullabies. Suddenly, over the past few months, hugs are no longer enjoyable to the boy who hugged me the most. With his new height came many new changes, one of them the demise of cuddles in bed.
I would be totally fine with these natural changes if they did not serve as constant reminders that our kids are moving into adulthood which in my mind means, leaving home. I can't fathom living without them in my daily life. I fear that I will die of a broken heart when we have an empty nest. I'm not being dramatic. I actually fear this will be my cause of death. Many parents eagerly await the moment their kids leave the house so that they can begin to enjoy life as a couple. I, on the other hand, always enjoyed my life with my kids and my husband. Having them by my side through every vacation, every adventure, every celebration is what made my life so incredibly satisfying. From their first days of birth, we have practically done everything together. Since the pandemic, we have been inseparable. They are my joy, my life, my purpose, and when our children leave, what will I have left?
Motherhood is my greatest accomplishment. I was born to parent and raise children. It is a calling that I've always had and a journey that I have savored each and every step of the way. Our children have been my best friends, travel partners, teachers, and mostly my mirror. They have taught me endless lessons about myself, highlighting my strengths and mainly my weaknesses. They have also taught me to love deeply, intensely, and selflessly.
I am beyond proud of who they have become. They are wonderful young adults with who I cherish spending my time with. Anyone who knows me knows that they are always by my side. I genuinely love anchoring my moments with them more than anyone else in my life (well, besides my husband who I adore too). They are fun, funny, honest (often harshly so), interesting, inspiring, ambitious, kind, loyal, compassionate, and offer me the boosts I need in my daily life. But they won't stop growing. And that means they will be leaving us soon. That's when I will begin to die a slow and painful death. I know my heart can't bear the lack of their regular presence. I cannot make sense of the difficult truth that one day soon they won't be running in and out of the kitchen and chatting away with us regularly at the dining room table. It seems so unfair! A cruel joke, really. To have them and love them and immerse every ounce of myself into every second of every moment for the past eighteen years of their lives and then off they go! Then what? For them, I pray that all their dreams come true. I wish for them that they marry someone who loves them as much as my husband and I love each other and as much as we both loved them. I dream that they experience many adventures and laughter and joy. I imagine they live free from societal constrictions and oblivious to the judgements others will want to impose on them. But what does my future look like? I'll be the one crying on the couch waiting for my phone to ring just to hear their voice.
It's been three days of non-stop crying. Perhaps the nerves of moving are beginning to kick in. Maybe I shouldn't be watching so many old videos of the past. I can't help myself though. 2010 was the beginning of the most magnificent moments in my life. I continue to be pretty darn happy in 2021. Actually, I'll time warp back to any of the years in between. I just dread 2024, 2026, 2028 which will be the years I slowly start to collapse as the best years of my life come to a halt. I'll be forced to convince myself, by the encouraging attempts of others, that the best years are still yet to come but I'll know deep down inside, that I will never be the same again.
For now, I inhale the memories we've created in this home. I breathe so desperately hoping that with each strong breath a memory will be embedded into my cells ensuring I will never forget certain moments. Like the times they'd all hop into empty boxes after an amazon delivery and I'd close the boxes up saying we're shipping them off to grandma and grandpa and they would crack up relentlessly. Or the time our son would hold a napkin over the air conditioning unit making it fly high into the air squealing with delight. Or the hours and hours we spent together taking baths, watching movies, eating meals, dancing, reading stories, playing with their trains, having tea parties, playing board games, reveling in hide-and-seek marathons, baking, painting, playing with shaving cream, making slime, drawing, playing instruments, celebrating birthdays, hosting friends... There have been endless, gorgeous moments that continue to lurk in the air. When people compliment us on our apartment, they don't realize it's the love in the air they're experiencing, not the visual effects of our décor or layout. Leaving this apartment is starting to feel like abandoning the memories we made. I feel like I am walking away from their childhood.
I am so grateful that I was able to give up my career to raise my children. I have zero regrets about putting anything on hold over the years because I was able to focus on creating a family unit that was the kind I always dreamed of. There is no sense of "sacrifice" and absolutely zero regrets about putting a career on hold. None of those popular feminist tales ever enter my thoughts. In my mind, it is crystal clear that the only path is the one I chose, which is to raise our kids and spend as much time with them as humanely possible. I was blessed with the opportunity to spend hundreds of thousands of hours with them, never missing a beat. With that choice, comes the painful reality that when the time comes for them to blossom on their own, I will be left with a huge void in my heart. Yet, I would do it all over again if I could.
I sit here typing as tears flow onto my keyboard and roughly twenty napkins drenched in snot are tossed a few inches away. The closer we approach moving day, the more it seems impossible to leave this place behind. I can't let go. This apartment is our memory silo. There is no way for me to breathe the millions of memories in before we leave. There just isn't enough time.
I know there will be new memories. New beginnings. New adventures. I know all of this. I know that there will hopefully be so many happy times when they become adults living on their own- weddings and grandkids please G-d. I know that I will somehow survive and find ways to fill my days. I know all this. This knowledge though doesn't soften the recognition that my time with them is limited and that the clock is ticking in full force. So, I am left to continue tenaciously memory-make so that when they leave, I can look back knowing that we spent the best years of our lives together. My years with them in our home will absolutely be unmatched in the years to come without them under our roof. In the meantime, please let me sulk, just this once. I am in the midst of healing a fractured heart and dealing with the frustration of failed attempts at building a time machine- not to mention the panic mode of packing up and breathing in eleven years of the best memories of my life. My short-term goals are to gulp these recollections into my lungs and exhale them out, with all my strength, once we arrive to our new home in San Diego hoping they linger in the air we will breathe out west.
I am grateful that the clock is set to on mode, serving as a constant reminder to make the last three years we have with our oldest son before he goes off to college as memorable as ever but I just wish it didn't tick so darn loud. I'm hoping to find a way to mute it so that I can peacefully focus on the here and now and allow myself to fantasize that these days will last forever.