My sweet niece has come to visit for a couple of days. I had forgotten how precious the sound of a babbling toddler is, the intoxicating smell of silky baby hair after a bath, the sweet snuggle when she first wakes up, bleary-eyed, bewildered, and looking to you for guidance on how to start the day. It is two days I will savor, as I worry that I let this time slip by with my own three children.
When Melanie arrived at our house, we had waited, prayed, hoped, had our hopes dashed, cried, resolved to move on, then dared to open our hearts to the possibility that she really could be ours. She had just turned nine months old the day she came home. We watched her play, we watched her sleep. For two solid weeks we had very little contact with the outside world. The TV and radio were, for the most part, silent. The "guilty pleasure" novel on my nightstand went unread. Once we resumed normal day-to-day activities, a large portion of time was still devoted to being in the all-too-fleeting moments of Melanie's babyhood.
Alex came to us in an altogether different way from his older sister. He arrived with the the drama (and trauma) of labor. An emergency c-setion and horrendous bout of post-partum depression made his first few months a blur. My family stood in for me until I was able to rejoin life and motherhood, but I still feel pangs of guilt when I think of the time lost with both Alex and Melanie during those days.
Sara-Alyce came two weeks before Melanie started kindergarten, and Alex started preschool. No depression this time, but I still feel like her first few months are a blur because I was exhausted from the demands of three children, working from home, volunteering, and trying my hardest to keep my marriage and friendships going.
I blinked, and we are here. We are on the eve of middle school, fourth grade, and first grade. Sure, there were great "fully engaged" vacations, outings, special occasions. I'm not saying I missed out on it all. I'm saying that many times, I just wasn't fully present for each moment that I wouldn't realize the value of until it was gone.
This morning, when I should have been cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry, I watched my three children play with my niece. I listened to all of them laughing. I saw my almost six-year-old "baby" play mentor. I was enraptured.
Warning: It could be awhile before the dishwasher is unloaded.