I love seeing parents holding small children, guiding them across a parking lot with a hand on a shoulder or back, or holding a soft, tiny hand. My “boys”, while still teenagers, now look less like boys than men. As many moms warned, the years went quickly. Witnessing these families reminds me of the best everyday pleasures I used to experience with my own some years ago.
One of the best rituals was the greeting I’d get from my older son when I picked him up from daycare. He’d had a great time there, but would run from wherever he was in the room, arms wide to give a huge hug. He was so joyful, and his hugs so heartfelt. It was the best end to every work day. Even now, he gives the best hugs. Several months ago, he hugged me goodbye as I left for surgery. There was so much love and strength in it. You couldn’t mistake how he felt with a hug like that.
When he moved to elementary school, I found another favorite ritual, this time at the beginning of the day with my younger son. Taking him alone to daycare was one of the rare times in a day when I did not have both boys with me, and could focus entirely on one. Each day, as we held hands from car to building door to keep him safe, I would embrace how grateful I was to be holding that little hand. I knew that someday his hand would be bigger than mine. I felt honored to have this time to guide him. His hands are bigger than mine now, and he uses them to help me in all sorts of wonderful ways. But I will never forget how it felt to be there – for him and with him – in those early years.
When I talk to mothers who have small children, they say the days are so long. I remember that. They wonder if they’ll ever make it to the teenage years with their sanity intact. I remember that, too. It is true that the days are long, but the years are so short. My wish for all parents is that we appreciate the precious gems hidden in our everyday actions. Their comfort never goes away.
“The days are long, but the years are short.”Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project (2009)
We put great efforts into holidays and big celebrations, as if those special days hold something more meaningful than others. Still, if I could go back in time to any day, I would pick an ordinary day. There would be no department store Santa or wee St. Patrick’s Day celebration, no graduation or birthday. It would be an Everyday.
Instead of sweat beading on my upper lip as I raced to get everyone ready, I would cherish picking out clothes for the day, and putting a sock gently on a tiny foot unlined by miles of walking and years of running. I would trace my finger along toes and smile at the tickled giggles. We would play with bath toys and bubbles until the water turned cold.
I wouldn’t be so worried about getting to work on time. The worrying never got me there quicker. I would be slow about breakfast, unconcerned with whether someone ate everything. I would cut apples sitting at the table with my children and hand them out as I sliced, instead of taking them out of packages and frantically plating them like a short-order cook. It would take the same amount of time, but we would experience it together. And my cellphone wouldn’t be on the table.
I would not pretend that I could work an 11-hour day during work hours, come home and take care of my family, and then return to checking emails and working for another few hours without giving up something. There’s actually not enough time in the day for that. I would make more informed choices. From experience I can say that my kids and my husband didn’t get the best of me, and neither did I.
When I started my own business in 2019, I realized that I lived my best life if I guarded against distractions equally in work and personal activities. We all won when I focused my time and spent less of it on work, not more. Clients got more value from me, I was far less stressed, and I was able to have a conversation with my kids when they came home from school. My quality of life soared. Better late than never, I guess!
We sacrifice so much in an effort to “get” time, and to “spend” it efficiently. The only way to get time is to pay attention to it in moments, instead of letting it slip away.
6 thoughts on “Holding on to hugs and little hands.”
A wise and moving and eloquent post about parenthood and life, Donna. Among my favorite lines: “It is true that the days are long, but the years are so short.”
Thanks so much, Dave. Someone shared a similar phrase with me (“The days are long, but the years are short.”) I’m not sure of its origins, though. It’s paradoxical that in the Information Age it’s so difficult to accurately source and attribute anything.
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Dave, thanks again for your comment. I was able to find the author of the original quote my line referred to as true, and included her attribution in an update to this piece.
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Thank you, Donna! Interesting to see that that great quote is relatively recent — just 12 years ago.
The words simply touched my heart. I still remember the days when I used to hold my parents’ hand while going to school.
How beautiful – I’m so glad it brought back memories for you!