I’ve been having dreams about my kids every night for the last few weeks. They’re college students in their twenties, but in my dreams, they’re toddlers again. In last nights dream I was vaguely protecting the toddler versions of them from grown people that they’re involved with now, in their 20’s. During the dream I am aware that it’s odd to have adults from their present life looming over them as toddlers, but in my dreams, worlds intersect and the past and the future are fluidly combined. Last nights dream had me reading them their bedtime stories, while protecting their toddlers selves from their current adult perceived foes.
I wake up from these baby dreams feeling confused and mournful for a few hours as I wander through my early morning ritual of tea and breakfast, trying to shake the thick muzziness and feeling of loss from my head; trying to remember the elusive details of the dream until finally I capture the essence of it and well up with sadness until the caffeine in my tea eventually snaps me back to reality and shakes the melancholy out of me.
It wasn’t until this morning when I saw a lot of back-to-school posts on Facebook that I realized that I was going through the same annual emotions I’ve always experienced when the kids go back to school, even though they’re now in college. I miss them. Simple as that. They’re grown up and I mourn the loss of their younger selves.
That’s not to say I prefer their younger selves to who they are now. I love them and am thrilled with who they’ve become and what they’re capable of and where their lives are headed. But I miss the babies that have grown up and are no longer here. I miss the physicality of infancy and toddlerhood; the hand-holding whenever we’d go out, the daily snuggling, the night-time book reading, the bath time, the night-time hugs, the tear wiping, the snot nose wiping, the uproarious laughing, the excitement at learning to read, the laying in bed together when one of them couldn’t sleep, the rituals, the chores, the constant picking up and carrying – all of it, I miss all of it.
I wish I’d played with them more. I wish I’d appreciated it all while it was happening, as now I realize how quickly it all zoomed by. It’s like so many things in life, as Joni Mitchell said, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?” Back when they were toddlers, I was always so exhausted and overwhelmed. Now that I’m through it all, I can see what a remarkable time it was and how lucky I was to experience it and them, but during the actual years that they were young, I was so tired, scared and overwhelmed with work and raising two kids that I didn’t appreciate it as much as I could have.
So if you’re reading this and have young kids of your own, please try to recognize that it will all go by very quickly and you’ll all be fine and at some point in your life, you’ll have enough time to sleep again, so appreciate it now while they’re young and impressionable.
As my therapist used to tell me, “You’re just planting seeds, that’s all you need to do right now, just plant the seeds.” I used to think she was batshit crazy as I was right in the thick of things and never thought they were even listening to a single word I said, but now that they’re 21 and 23, I can see the beautiful, strong trees growing up from those seeds I planted years ago and it’s kind of amazing that it really worked!