We hear the saying “Time Flies” so often that we have almost stopped taking time to think about what that means for us.
“Make the most of them when they’re young, they grow up too fast”
When it comes to our children we get to a point where we, put simply, CAN NOT BELIEVE how quickly the time went. I speak to so many parents who are experiencing this so I wanted to share my perspective with you all.
I look back at my eldest’s younger years with both a feeling of “that seems so long ago” but at the same time “where has the time gone?” It’s looking forward to the future and being immensely proud of who he is, how he’s learned from mistakes, how he continues to mature and change week on week and at the same time feeling so incredibly sad.
When my son was set to leave primary school I struggled, I felt at times like my heart was breaking. I would cry at night, spend hours looking through old photographs of him and all the time not understanding why I felt like this. I had my son, I was so incredibly blessed. I knew parents who had lost their children, people who had been unable to conceive and here I was with two healthy children feeling sad; I then added guilt into the big mixed bag of emotions I was feeling.
I know how complex emotions are, I talk about it in my work every single day yet I was being hard on myself for feeling how I felt.
I can’t remember when or where I first read about grieving for our children’s childhoods but I’m forever grateful that I did. I read something that just made me say ‘Ahhhh, that makes sense’ and I could begin to process and strategize.
When my son was younger he broke his arm and needed an urgent operation, I remember cleaning his muddy legs in A&E and thinking “these feel bigger”, I remember HIM telling ME that it would be OK and then me thinking “when did this happen. When did he grow to this stage?” I think that was my first experience of feeling this type of grief. As he started secondary school it got worse and I knew if I didn’t work through it I would lose out on time with him now and forever be looking backwards instead of forwards.
Just like when we look at a photo of ourselves and hate it only to look back 10 years later and think ‘what was I stressing about?’ I knew I would look at photos of the age he was and think how young he looked.
The only way I could do this was to accept it for what it was and allow myself to grieve for the little boy he was and love and accept the young man he was becoming.
Grief is ever changing, it is not a place to stay and it is completely necessary in order to look forwards. Although the difference between this kind of grief and a real grief is that this passes, it doesn’t stay as a constant hurt; which is fantastic to hear. So although at the time it hurts, it changes, it doesn’t stay and we can get on with enjoying our children as they are.
I’m aware not all parents feel this way and that’s fine too, how we feel is just that, how WE feel and we mustn’t feel guilty for it.
Having spoken to my dad about this topic he raised some interesting points and one that resonated was that we have access to almost an unlimited number of videos and photos of our children now; there aren’t any videos of me as a toddler for my parents to sit and reminisce over, in fact there are only limited photos. Does the fact we have all these memories to watch make it harder to move forwards?
Whatever the answer to that question I’m not sure, but my Dad kindly forwarded me a poem he wrote about me when I was 14 and I would say that videos or no videos, photos or no photos we all need to address these feelings to some degree at some point (as for the ‘loud and rude and coarse’ comment, I’ve no idea what he’s on about).
So, as my youngest now prepares to start secondary school and my eldest attends university open days I have more days to come watching old videos, looking at photos and longing to feel their chubby toddler arms wrapped around my neck again – and that’s OK. As with all feelings it’s important to acknowledge and not suppress, only then can we process and move forwards; and I shall be moving forwards with 2 young people who still need me more than ever, and who I am immensely proud to call my son and daughter. Just as I hope my dad is proud of me.
It’s hard to think these photographs are old,
yet hard too to deny the evidence:
there’s you on your first day at school
standing up against the ‘old-house’ fence,
recalling someone that it seems I knew
before the flow of time created you.
I’ve known you now for nearly fifteen years,
but somehow never know who you may be
at any stage along the path of change.
Your past personas tease my memory
like lost friends from a half-forgotten past
recalled to life in faded photographs.
I could embarrass you, and write in terms
of my loved daughter, and the joys
she brings: but you would cringe
and read my words in funny voice
with cruel affection, mocking me
for writing sentimentally.
And yet it isn’t joy you bring,
it’s life, with all its force:
you aren’t some fragrant angel;
you’re loud and rude and coarse.
You make me laugh, you make me rage,
you see the whole world as your stage.
I watch each growing step you take
and follow gladly in your wake.
Jennifer Wyman is founder of Bridge the Gap and is an Emotional Literacy trainer. Jennifer is married with 2 children and has over 21 years of experience working within child development and early years.