Will I Miss It?
For whatever reason, my husband and I decided it’d be a good idea to bring our toddlers to a professional basketball game. He works in the sports industry and I grew up with basketball in my blood. So what the heck? It’d be fun.
Once we got our tickets, we found our seats and let them close their cushioned lips around us.
Not too long into the game, the crowd around us roared to life. My husband turned toward me with disbelief in his eyes.
“Did you see that?” he asked.
I quieted the toddler in my lap and shook my head. “No, what?”
He pointed to the jumbotron as the last remnants of replay flashed onscreen. But my lap-child was wiggling again and I looked away to tend to her.
The rest of the basketball game went by in a blur. A blur of giggles, tickles, and removing my children from the cascading cement steps. A fuzzy haze of voices. My voice. Repeating common phrases like “No thank you” and “Get down from there!”
For all I knew, only four people were in the entire arena. The same four that could have been at home doing the exact same thing.
Except for one man. The beer vendor.
“Looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you tonight,” he chuckled.
I nodded. “Every night.”
He smiled, a nostalgic look in his middle-aged eyes. “Yeah, well, one day you’re gonna miss this.”
For a moment, I paused. If for no other reason than to question the man’s sanity. Or perhaps his rose-colored rear view mirror. Or maybe he’d been drinking a little too much of the stuff in his tub.
After all, what was there to miss? I’d come to watch basketball. A game that’s as much a part of my personal history as the skin I wear on my bones. Most of the athletes were taller than my 7′ Christmas tree, and I had hardly seen them. Barely even noticed they were there.
Instead, I’d been constantly removing two tiny people from the handrails in the stands.
Miss it? I chortled to myself. How could I miss it?
But he’s not the only one who’s said those words. The message seems to be on the tongue of every parent who has made it beyond this stage. Like they know something we don’t. Like they’re in some secret parent club and all they’re allowed to say is, “You’re gonna miss it.”
But, honestly, what could anyone miss about this stage of life?
What is there to miss about being covered in someone else’s poop, pee, and snot? What’s so great about the middle-of-the-night interruptions and early morning wake-up calls? The long days and even longer bedtime routines? How could I mourn the loss of temper tantrums and conniption fits? Or the juggling act with several tiny humans as they all scream that they ‘need’ different things?
How would anyone in their right mind miss that stuff?
I spent the second half of the basketball game trying to figure it out. Racking my brain to discover what they know.
They’ve been in my shoes. These new-mom shoes. They know about the long hours, the aching muscles, the temper tantrums and conniption fits. They understand sleep schedules, and picky eaters, and constant noise.
The desperate need to throw in the towel some days.
We’re looking at parenting—the same exact stage of parenting, in fact—but seeing totally different things.
Like the story where blind men try to learn about elephants by touching different parts of an elephant’s body. One man hugs the beast’s leg and describes an elephant as a pillar. Another touches the tail and thinks an elephant is like a rope. One touches the ear, another the tusk. And, rightfully, they all say elephants are something different.
When it comes to parenting, I’m a lot like those blind men, clinging to one part and trying to understand its whole.
What these other parents see, then, isn’t rose-tinted. It’s more fleshed out. More truthful. More real. They can see a lot more of the elephant.
At this point in parenting, all I can see is how much my back aches from holding small kids all day. They know back pain is nothing compared to the heartbreak when kids get too big to hold.
I can see how hard I work to entertain my kids all day every day. They know it takes a lot more than silly faces and tickles to make their children laugh now.
I see how weighed down I am with snacks, drinks, bags, diapers, toys, and small people. Their hands feel even heavier now that they’re empty.
I dream about how quiet my house will be once the kids are grown or gone. They turn the TV on—not to watch it, but because silence feels dead compared to the noise.
I see the constant messes of spilled milk, chewed food, and death-trap Legos that I have to clean up. Their messes involve broken hearts, puberty, and body image issues.
I see how I have zero personal space or time to myself. They would give anything to see that little kid come into the room again. Even if they were in the middle of doing toilet business. But that little kid doesn’t exist anymore.
I sometimes think I could be so much more—DO so much more with my life—’if’…They’ve seen the fruit of parenting and know they’ve never done anything more important.
I see everything I’m missing out on, and worry I won’t have an identity when they leave. They see they’ve gained something greater.
I see tantrums, fights, and uncontrollable whining. To this day, they’ve never again come so close to pure innocence that they could reach out and hug it.
I see all my hopes, dreams, and ambitions. They witness their children accomplishing their hopes, dreams, and ambitions—and that’s even more satisfying.
I see myself getting pulled in so many directions I fear my body might snap like an overstretched rubber band. They know I will never be this pursued, adored, or admired again. Ever. For the rest of my life.
So, mama, maybe you’re wading through a dung pile trying to figure out this whole elephant thing. But keep in mind, you might not be seeing the whole picture.
The bigger picture is that you have a front row seat to your little person’s life story. There’s only one ticket, and it’s got your name on it.
Towards the end of the basketball game, my husband’s question changed. He knew I hadn’t seen the pass down the lane. The last second shot. The momentum shift toward our favorite team’s victory.
This time, his face was full of sympathy. Sorrow, even. Like I missed something.
“Are you getting to see any of this?” he asked.
I gazed back at the little person wiggling in my lap. The one whose smile could light up the entire American Airlines Center, but instead was begging for me to notice her.
Out of everything around her—the lights, the noise, the food, the excitement—all she wanted was me. Just me.
“No,” I said with a shrug. “But that’s okay.”
So will I miss it when they’re grown? I don’t know. Probably.
All I know for certain is that if I don’t pay attention, I’ll miss it now.