“Why do you want to be a firefighter when you grow up?” I watched his little brow furrow as he popped another bite of pancake into his mouth. I sipped at my coffee, waiting patiently for his answer. “Because I just do.” I was not letting him get away with that.
“What do you think would be cool about being a firefighter?” He looked at me now, sipping orange juice from a straw. “Rescuing people, and putting out fires.” I smiled. Now we were getting somewhere. I continued to ask him questions, the kind that require specific answers. I had woken early that morning to find him by himself, already awake before his brothers and Daddy, sitting by the front window. “Do you want to go get breakfast with just me?” He grabbed his shoes and was out the door, and now we sat, just the two of us at that cafe table. Looking over at him, I couldn’t help but notice just how grown up he looked—how different.
I can only imagine that your children are growing as quickly as mine. And my heart aches at how easily it is to forget to keep getting to know them. They are so different from a year ago—and are we able to count and name the ways?
My first baby, by this time next week he will be six years outside of my womb. Six years. No longer a toddler or preschooler—a kid. A boy. And every day I see him inching more and more toward manhood. As I watch this, the passing of time happening mercilessly right before my eyes, I fear that time and boyhood will pull him away from me. It’s so easy when they are tiny, to cuddle and read books and run wooden trains across endless loops of tracks on the carpet.
But I’ve seen it happening—as this near-six-year-old boy grows and makes friends and reads books and learns, his interests are developing. He’s more content to do his own thing—to ride his bike over homemade jumps for hours on end—and I think we both forget that we still need time, just him and me.
That’s what brought us to that breakfast table. The evening before after he was sound asleep, I replayed in my mind the two questions he had asked me that afternoon. “Mom, can you read more books to us?” I walked toward the bathroom to grab my hairbrush, “I can’t, Bud, I need to get ready to go.” And, “Mom, can you do this craft with us?” I had turned that one down, too.
I know it’s not realistic, or healthy, to sit side-by-side with them all day long. But perhaps those simple invites tucked into their everyday conversations, the ones we often turn down in the name of Busy and Distracted—perhaps those are a precious gift from our child, an opportunity to keep getting to know them—to mark up the passing of time with timeless memories.
Maybe, if we were more open to those invitations, if we even went looking for them through invites to breakfast, a walk around the pond, or a trip to the ice cream shop—we’d be more aware of time’s passing before us. Maybe we’d be more at peace with its pace because we would be leaning into all it has to give—a front row seat to our babies-turning-big-kids.
I think I’m going to try it. I mean, I have been. Perhaps—no, I am certain–the reason I write so much on time is because it is one of my greatest struggles. But this morning over pancakes and coffee, we won. Over questions of aspirations and favorite hiking spots and hobbies, I got to know my boy a little more.
This is how it happens—how we know them yesterday and today and tomorrow and twenty years from now when they’re living their own lives—we know them because we made an effort to at every stage. And sometimes effort looks like a plate of pancakes and a hot cup of coffee.