Why do people say this? I do not think it is because they are ill-intentioned; they almost always say it with a kind smile or a friendly pat. But, seriously, why do people say this? Do they remember regretfully the screaming matches they had with their five-year-olds, and hope to help us avoid a similar regret? Are they swollen with nostalgia for footie pajamas and sleep wrinkles? Are they disappointed in how their own children turned out, and wishing they could reclaim all that lost potential?
The world may never know. I think, more often than not, people simply default to that line for lack of anything else to say. Regardless of the motivation, I always want to respond by smiling politely and whispering, “No.”
No, I’m not going to be able to enjoy the baby, because, you see, she is a baby, and an inordinate amount of work. She has several horrible habits, which I would be only too happy to detail for you, should you have the time. Let’s just say, between the reckless pooping and her penchant for yelling at me every waking moment, she’s really difficult to enjoy. Thanks, anyway, for the good hearted advice, but I can’t live up to it.
Ah, the serenity!
Here’s the truth: I’m not blind. If I’m a wretch, why wouldn’t my kids be wretches? They fight, spill, poop, backtalk, fling, dirty, and whoop their way right out of my good sentiments hourly. I love them—viciously, rebelliously, committedly—and I love them because they are mine. But I love them in spite of the fact that, tragically, I can’t enjoy them most of the time.
There are, however, moments—and each second is a gift—when I like my children. It is in these moments that I like them very much: the boy may be working diligently on inventing a machine for knocking down a tower of blocks, and in his furrowed brow I will see the workings of a man; the girl may be concentrating hard on her homework, and in her soft eyes I will see the glimmer of womanhood. Sometimes, even the toddler and the baby will, in breathless flashes, offer glimpses of the adults they might someday become: the women waiting behind the impish chins.
I feel genuinely blessed to be the recipient of sticky kisses and to hear the laughter of infants. But, at the end of the day, I like my children as people, not, implicitly, as children. And I dream of the day when I am surrounded by grown children, their legs stretched under my table, their voices deep and full. I fervently and readily pray God’s mercy upon me and my family, for my pain will be palpable should even one of my grown babies be missing from my table in my later days. I do not wish to imagine how awful it would be should one of them fail to appear at His. Come soon, Lord Jesus . . .
In the meantime, I struggle to put my trust in God's promises, and believe that the prayers of a righteous man availeth much. They will never outgrow their Baptisms nor will they outgrow my prayers. And believing this, I am free to spend my days looking for and praising the adults I see emerging in my kids--because, yes, they do grow up so fast. Isn’t it great?