He came home that afternoon with extra light in his eyes.
“My pictures! They’re in my bookbag!”
He was so proud to share this special delivery with his Mommy. We had practiced his “real smile” for weeks. Then waited a couple more to see the fruits of our labor. We tore into the package and marveled at his handsome face, his shiny white teeth he’d been learning how to brush like a big kid. He saw a big boy, growing and learning in Pre-K. I saw my baby, playing school.
He snatched a picture and rushed over to the fridge, where last year’s picture was proudly displayed. Grabbing a magnet, he set them up side by side, 3-year-old Mason and 4-year-old Mason.
“Wow, look how big I got!” He was glowing with pride.
“Oh my goodness,” was all I could get out as I let the shock wash over me. There, laid out against that iconic blue background, was the difference a year makes in the life of a little boy. Seeing that plain-as-day comparison left me part bursting with joy for my thriving little man and part holding back and good old-fashioned mommy meltdown.
Later that night, I went back to examine the two pictures in the post-bedtime quiet. There was something about the simplicity of the pictures, the identical background, the posed smile. Seeing them side-by-side hit me like a ton of bricks. The shape of his eyes had changed. I little wrinkle in his chin had filled out ever so slightly. His “big noggin,” as we affectionately called it, seemed to be more proportionate this year… taking him one step further from my little bobble-headed toddler.
I stared at those pictures and thought… What was in between these two moments?
Bedtime routines, playgrounds, snacks in the car.
Library visits, tantrums, haircuts.
Hand holding, lesson learning, hours spent hanging on the side of a Target shopping cart with mommy.
Laughing. Worrying. Living. Questioning everything.
Did I love him enough? Did I fill his year with magic? Was there enough of me to go around in this phase he’ll never pass through again?
It gave me that familiar New Year’s Ever feeling when you look back and realize a year goes by like clockwork…in the blink of an eye. I could see 10,000 tiny moments flipping through my mind like the pages of a book. My inner dialogue wouldn’t be pushed aside at this moment. He’s growing. It’s happening, right now. Hold him tighter. Lay on the floor with him and giggle about nothing. Make time to dive into his questions about the solar system. Don’t. Miss. This.
Time is no friend of a parent. We don’t have enough of it on any given day, and there certainly isn’t enough to feel you’ve spent an adequate amount of time with your growing child. Tough days can feel like they last for 92 hours. However, when you’re faced with the hard evidence of a year’s change in a person you love more than life itself, it stops you in your tracks. Time isn’t tangible, it’s sneaky the way it slips through our (busy) fingers. I’ll leave those pictures side by side in my kitchen, hoping they remind me to stop what I’m doing every once in a while and go soak up my little boy. After all, no dirty dish compares to his magic.