From the minute a newborn is handed over to his/her mother, one of the most oft-repeated pieces of advice given is, “Enjoy every moment, it goes by so quickly!”
In the first few days I had with my baby daughter, I wondered what people could have possibly meant by this when the nights that stretched into days seemed like an endless cycle.
But then, that once tiny newborn has suddenly transformed into a six-year-old ate to two little brothers, both of whom seem to be growing too quickly themselves.
I realized that it isn’t just the kids growing and changing before our very eyes. What nobody tells the new parents is that the speed at which a child grows up is the same speed at which we age. Our children are growing up, we parents are aging.
The truth is, I don’t feel a day older than 22—except, of course, in the morning after a night out when I try to act as if I were still 22. But that is a different story.
As a child, I remember, I looked up to my mom and imagined that she was so much older. Now I realize that my mom was actually quite young when I was born and, lucky for me, we are able to meet at this stage in our lives where we are both old and young enough to enjoy each other’s company.
Even when it comes to my children, we are lucky that mom is able to help us look after them and even substitute for me when I have to go out of town with my husband. But up until these last few days, this was something I took for granted.
We look at our children and note that the changes are evident in every aspect. Their faces sharpen, bodies grow, voices deepen and attitudes mature. But when we look at our parents, the changes are so subtle that they usually go unnoticed, at least in our eyes.
It’s almost as if parents and grandparents don’t seem to change at all despite the passage of the years until one day you find a strand of white hair on your head, or you find yourself accompanying a grandparent to the doctor.
Then you remember what you’ve been told when you had a new baby: “It goes by so quickly”—and you realize it goes both ways.
I remember my dear “Nanang,” my maternal grandmother. She was so strong and seemed poised to outlive her own children when, one day, so suddenly, she just lost her strength. Age suddenly caught up with her and in less than a year, she was gone.
I am thankful for the years I was able to spend with her when she moved in with us—glad that she was able to meet my daughter.
Over the holidays, I had the chance to spend a great deal of time with my mom and my mother-in-law, and I was struck when I heard my mother-in-law say that “the greatest heartbreak” of her life is not being able to see all her grandchildren all grown up, with their own careers and families.
Let me just clarify that despite her health challenges in the past, she is in good health and still young enough to enjoy many years with the family. My mother-in-law had her children at a young age, and now that they are all grown up, she is a frequent travel, shopping, dining and party companion to all of her family, grandchildren included.
I believe she is perfectly capable of seeing her grandchildren walk down the altar, God willing.
She said this as an afterthought as we talked about the kids and what the future held for them. But just the same, it struck a chord in me.
When we raise children, we all eagerly await every change that comes with it every year. Parents might feel a tug on their heartstrings at the realization that the children are growing up, but still, every added year is welcomed and celebrated.
That is why we make the most of every moment, planning every day to have enough quality time to bond with the children before they are all grown up and have their own lives.
But for some reason, we don’t feel the same urgency to make every moment with our own parents count. Either that, or maybe some of us are in denial that our parents are aging, or our spouses and ourselves.
Whether it is a simple oversight or out of fear of losing someone so precious, we can’t deny that it is happening, slowly but surely.
Like many, these are the kind of thoughts I prefer to brush aside. I pretend that I am in control of my time, as well as that of my loved ones. But sometimes, a healthy dose of reality is needed to help us appreciate what we have.
Contrary to what we sometimes believe, we do not have all the time in the world to do what we want with the people we love. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can adjust our priorities and make time for our loved ones, not just the little ones.