I pour the lavender bubbles into the bath. The morning light is streaming through the window which means I don’t have to turn on the ugly sconces. Natural light against bathroom tile is my jam. They think morning baths are a treat, like having your own private indoor pool. In truth, day time baths are really for me. Its a reset button to a cranky start to the day, a wind down before nap to wash away the sweaty morning, an afternoon distraction to fill the dreaded gap before dad and dinner.
I plop them in, both feeling heavier to me than I expected. Not the chubby little babes they once were, easy to swing from hip to hip and floor to bath, but now child and toddler with hefty muscles and awkward limbs. I can feel the exhale as each one hits the warm water, from them and then me. It’s one of the mom reflexes, I think, the relaxed sigh following her children’s sigh. I remember it from the newborn finally succumbing to sleep stage. And now, far too often, the tantruming toddler finally forgetting what he was upset about stage.
For a second I almost wonder if maybe I should join them. It does look, and smell, lovely. But then I remember a porcelain tub from the ‘30s does not leave room for a third body. And also, I have that laundry to fold, and those dishes to rinse, and actually, let’s be honest, that social media to scroll through whilst drinking my partially warm coffee I never get to enjoy. This is, after all, why I love the day time bath. An easy entertainment for the children leaving room for just me and my own thoughts, or podcasts, for but a moment.
I sit down to first begin the laundry folding. Something makes me stop.
Maybe it was the sweet conversations between the two as they offered toys and ideas for play.
Maybe it was the way the light was coming in making his hair seem whiter than usual.
Maybe it was the look I saw on her face that gave my heart an instant pause because I could have sworn just yesterday I was scrubbing the cheeks of a babbling toddler and now a full grown girl seems to have taken her place.
I sat there for 5, 10, maybe even 15 minutes of precious do-all-the-things time and just watched them, listened to them, smiling at them from a distance because I knew if they were to see me seeing them the moment would pass. Instead of checking off my to do list, or worse, falling down an Instagram rabbit hole, I took it all in, probably with that ridiculous half smile half pained look on my face that accompanies every parent on the cusp of their child’s next milestone.
You know the one I’m talking about it. You can see it on the parents’ faces at the first birthday party. It’s the same one at the high school graduation and during college drop off days. And it’s the one set across many faces of those sending their child with a backpack too big for their tiny body into a school for the first time as their Kindergarten teacher leads the way.
We’re about to be those parents, the ones with shaky smiles on their faces and achy hearts inside their chest. First day of Kindergarten is next week. And while I have known this milestone was on its way for a good while now, it seems there hasn’t been enough room in my mind, or heart, to process this fact. A fifth birthday will do that to you. This weekend she took a great big breath, blew out all five candles, and with it blew in the realization that this one who made me a mother is about to do something really big.
And so here it is, on my bathroom floor, with that thought decorating my mind, I find myself pausing a little bit longer. In the calm and quiet I savor their sweetness. I reminisce a little and feel grateful. This is a familiar place. I often repeat this ritual at birthdays, first events, and most recently, all the last events too.
It made me think that milestones, while important for growth and progress, are also really great for slowing us down. I am realizing, as tough on the heart as they are, I need these milestones in my life. I need an excuse for a pause, to stop chasing what’s next, to find a place for breathing it all in. Life becomes a little more special when we remember how fast it is moving and force it to slow down.
In running, we have milestones too, sometimes quite literally. A mile marker telling you how far you have come. Generally, when one sees the milestone, it’s a push to keep going. “I got this. Only X amount more miles to go. Let’s make it to the next one.” I never stop at a milestone. But I do stop at a rest stop. When training for a marathon, I was taught to pause at each water station, even if I wasn’t thirsty. I would walk, drink water, take a deep breath, and then keep marching on. It never slowed me down. It was only for a few seconds and it was always just what I needed at that moment to keep going. I am grateful for those rest stops.
Maybe from now on, with my children, and me too, I ought to stop thinking about the growth and change as milestones to pass by but as rest stops. With each new moment for the books, a chance to pause, to slow down, to appreciate.
I’m thankful for that chance now, amongst the bubbles, and puddles on the floor, and wet squirmy bodies to wrangle into clothes. Even if the tears next week don’t make it seem like I am.