“When are we going to go again?” my oldest daughter always wants to know, “just
you and me?”

Cassidy is five, and she shares a home with two younger siblings whose demands
for my eye contact are constant and loud. So I try to
orchestrate this one-on-one time with her on a somewhat regular basis. I ask
Grandma to watch the other kids so that we can sneak off together, and so she’ll
talk to me. I’m always amazed, when I get one of the kids alone, by how very
much they have to say to me.

“I have some running around to do,” I told Cassidy last Saturday. “Do you want
to come — just you and me?” I was ready for the usual flurry of words and for
the desperateness. “Don’t leave without me. Where are my shoes? Mom, don’t
leave without me. Can you help me find my socks? Don’t leave without me.”

But today was different. “What’s Callie going to do?” she asked.

“She’ll stay with Grandma.”

“Do you think Grandma would doctor my baby?” Grandma, a retired school
nurse, would most certainly doctor her baby, and she probably wouldn’t
be looking at the clock and thinking about the cruddy dishes in the sink
while she did it, either, like the dolly’s regular doctor.

And so it was settled. I had to remind myself that this is the same kid
who, just six weeks before, was chasing me down the driveway shouting
“One More Kiss!” when I left her with daddy one evening to ever-so-subtly
bolt for a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, and ten minutes of peace and
quiet at the 7-11 on the corner. Leaving the kids had always made me feel
a little guilty but also very, very central and very, very important.

So I left that day, and Cassidy gave me a peck and a quick wave because
Grandma had determined that her favorite baby doll had a rather high fever
and was at that moment offering detailed instructions on what she, as a
good mummy, could do to help.

I missed Cassidy that day as I ran my errands. I missed feeling the way
her hand fits into mine. Everyone says we have the same hands. Long, skinny
fingers; bulky knuckles, square nails. Eternally dry. I missed the self-conscious
way she holds her mouth between sips of hot cocoa that makes me wonder if she’s
not imaging herself to be Cinderella. I missed feeling the way time spent
alone with my daughter makes me feel — like the queen, with nothing to do but
allow each glorious moment to perch on my tongue for a time, like a communion wafer.

The passage of time is an enigmatic thing when you have small kids. In fact,
there are two remarks that parents of young children hear at least daily.
They are: “You sure have your hands full," and “Oh, the time goes so fast.”

I’ve always been fond of meeting that lament with a reminder to those older,
wiser parents that the years sometimes seem to go faster than the actual days.
But now I’m starting to see. I’m starting to look back on the last five years,
and I'm starting to wonder where it went. Wondering if Cassidy will still hold my hand in a
year or two as we walk the crowded downtown streets with our hot chocolate. If
she’ll still look at me like the queen. If I’ll soon be telling the tired mothers
I pass that oh, the time goes so fast.

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I would actually look forward
to the time each week following our trip to the supermarket when I would have
all three kids strapped safely in their carseats so that I could take one guilt-free
minute to push the cart to its corral, to hear my shoes scratching across the cement,
to notice any birds in the sky and whether the air felt cold against my skin. One
lone time-out minute from my life with three kids under age 6 when, yes, I had my
hands really, really full.

But I shock myself by writing that last line in the past tense. Clearly, I’m having
trouble knowing just what I want the time to do. This week, I’ve spent time looking
for life’s rewind, fast forward, and still-pause. Sometimes all at once. But, even
as I’m lamenting the time that is gone, I’m beginning to learn how to slow time for
myself with pure reverence. Reverence for the process, and for the puzzling way time
passes and the way our children grow, both gradually and all at once. And then
to resignedly watch time slip through my hands with a detachment and a sense of
grace that comes from respecting the process; the drifting, the slipping, the
rushing of time that is gone. To hold each of those God-given moments and then
to release it, ripe for another.

Author's Bio: 

Susie Cortright is the author of More Energy for Moms and founder of Momscape.com, a website filled with immediately useful and practical resources to help busy parents find balance. Today, Momscape visitors receive Susie's "6 Days to Less Stress" course free: http://www.momscape.com.