The other day, I took Hadley, my youngest (6.5), grocery shopping with me. For years I’ve avoided stores with my children at all costs. It’s boring for them, and hard for them to understand when I tell them we can’t buy anything other than what is on the list. I didn’t realize just how long it had been since I had taken Hadley with me.
Outside of our grocery store, there is a yellow horse. For a quarter, you get a minute-long ride. It’s in pretty sorry shape, scratched up and missing part of the stirrups. The eyes are long-gone and have been replaced with a set someone drew on with a Sharpie. For years now, on the few occasions I’ve had the kids, I’ve dreaded walking by the horse. In my mind, I cursed the person who put it there as an aggravating distraction standing between me and the task at hand. I would impatiently steer the kids towards the other entrance, promising one quick ride on the way out in exchange for good behavior in the store.
As we walked towards the door, Hadley held my hand tightly. We talked about how she would help fill the cart with s’more fixings and other things for our upcoming trip to Maine. Soon, we were just feet from the horse, and I realized that Hadley was not asking for a ride. I found myself offering her a quarter. She shrugged, uncertain, giggling a bit. “Sure!” she finally said, and eagerly hopped on. She smiled as she bounced along, but in a flash it was over and she did not ask for another turn. More than once, I had to drag a child off of the horse kicking and screaming who could not accept just one ride, while aghast shoppers sympathetically watched the drama play out.
I’ve expended so much emotional capital wishing the day would come when my children would stop asking about the horse, and would understand how to behave when their turn was up. Did I wish away the time? Was I impatient for now to become then too soon? I am becoming acutely aware that these years are fleeting moments in time, and as my kids grow, things that were once important to them will melt away into the sunset of their childhood. Memories and photos will be my saving grace, and the continued ability to laugh as much or more than I cry.
“The days are long but the years are short” -The Happiness Project