Remember those early weeks with your firstborn?
Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ve filed those memories away under “shit that got real, real fast”.
My recollection is hazy. But I do remember one particular moment which stands out. Standing in the queue at Woolies. Brand new baby boy tucked away in his capsule. An older lady lined up in front of me stopped to coo over my bundle. “It goes so fast you know,” is what she said.
Life, but not as you know it
At the time I wanted to punch her and have a little cry. Fast? The night before had dragged on for 300 hours. It was 10am and I’d already applied half a tube of Lansinoh to my shredded nips and soaked through a maternity pad.
Fast? No, life was the opposite of fast. The hours between when my husband left and arrived home seemed to stretch on forever. I could not imagine a time when this new life as a mother would seem anything that resembled normal.
I’ve revisited those words so many times since then. As that newborn nipple shredder became a toddler, then a big brother (twice over) and now, a six-and-a-half-year-old bundle of long limbs, big ideas and never ending references to bums, farts, Minecraft and Nerf guns. Time had gone by yes, but gone by quickly? I wasn’t so sure.
Then something happened.
A tiny, insignificant moment on a Saturday morning. It was 6am and still dark outside. I heard the thump as my son jumped from his bunk onto the carpet beneath, then the padding of size 1 feet down the hallway.
‘Mum, it’s 6.02am, can I go downstairs and have some Minecraft time?’ came the request.
His younger sisters were still asleep. Half awake myself, I mumbled something that he took as a yes then listened as he let himself out the baby gate and thundered down the stairs. I saw the living room flood with light. Heard him turn on the telly then immediately lower the volume. The stuttering of the heater being switched on followed. A cup of milk was poured and the ping of the microwave told me he’d heated it up himself. My baby was a bonafide young man. He’d grown up. And it hit me like a ton of bricks.
My husband and I used to lie in bed when we had a toddler (then a toddler and a baby) underfoot and fantasise about what self sufficiency in our kids would be like. “Imagine when they can TURN ON THE TV themselves,” we’d say, marvelling at the capacity for extra sleep that would give us. But it seemed like a far off time, a far off place. Until suddenly, it wasn’t. It was right here. We were in that place and I felt like I’d blinked and it had happened. All those things that spelled out that the baby days were over were unfolding and it had happened so fast that it made my head spin.
My son is my eldest child. I have two more. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that the baby who once was, is no longer. You don’t get that time, those moments, back.
And there is SO much to look forward to in this new grown up phase. The conversations. The shared love for Harry Potter. The fact that I’ll never again get wee’d on by a tiny willy while trying to change a nappy. But those golden days of the past? Before we had school and soccer, speeches to prepare and friendships that were firmly engineered and nurtured without the help of mum? Leaving them behind stings a little.
Woolies is still my second home (that’s #mumlife for ya). Now I push a trolley with three kids attached (or running alongside). And I see other parents with tiny babies and part of me wants to be the crazy lady grabbing them and spewing out cliches (“Savour the moment!”, “You’ll never get this time back!”, “They grow too fast!”) but then I realise that you can’t know, till you ‘know’ (a bit like birth really).
And I’m positive that the parents shopping alongside me, with grown up older kids pulling tins off the shelves or teenagers skulking alongside them, are looking at my tired eyes, paint/milk/food stained jeans and tribe of youngsters and think to themselves; “It goes so fast you know”.
Still in the newborn haze? Check out our 12 super useful parenting tip that every new mum should know.