I was rearranging my kids’ room last night, getting rid of books that won’t be read again. Piles and piles of them, now, simply, outgrown. Of course I saved some favorites for eventual grandkids (can I be old enough to have just used the word “grandkids”??), and others I was only too happy to be rid of. But watching the pile grow, I thought of how much time I’ve spent, these past ten years, reading to my kids. Mornings in bed. Evenings in the rocking chair. Long rainy afternoons at the kitchen counter. On the subway. At the beach. Beloved, memorized books recited walking down the sidewalk.
So many, many, many of those times were wonderful, close and intimate. Reading to your kids is so much like nursing them — you use your body and your love to introduce them to the best of what the world has in store. But other times were dull, endless, irritable, my impatience the background music, blaring. How many times have I skipped pages in _One Fish, Two Fish_, hoping my daughter wouldn’t notice?
And yet, now, looking at this pile of books for nevermore, and my son, too big to share the rocking chair, it seems like it’s gone by very fast. I do not mean the platitude. It doesn’t “fly by.” Sometimes, it positively drags. But then, somehow, it’s gone, anyway.
I see my own experience reflected in that of my students. For them, it’s the long colicky evenings, or the marathon nursing sessions they’ve been justifiably complaining about for weeks, or the endless days where they look at the clock every five minutes, waiting for their partners to get home, only to find themselves, one bright morning, suddenly, tearful while putting away outgrown newborn clothes and hats. For good.
Time moves weirdly. We’ve no choice but to enjoy the parts of it that are enjoyable. This is what I think about when I read this lovely poem, by Thomas Lux:
A Little Tooth
Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone. It's all
over: she'll learn some words, she'll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail. And you,
your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
are sore. It's dusk. Your daughter's tall.
You were once that baby, growing a tooth. How amazed must your own mother be that you’re now full grown with a child of your own. Take some time, this Mothers Day, to be amazed with yourself and your child and your life, so marvelous, filled with love.