Cherish This Time

July, 2006. It is a summer of transition for me. This week, my daughter turns 18 and in the Fall she will begin an independent life at Northwestern University. I can hardly believe it. When she was born people said, "Cherish this time. It goes so fast." Like most new parents we didn't understand that advice. As a matter of fact, the days seemed endless. At one point I was convinced that she would never be older than 2 months, 6 night feedings, 8 poopy diapers and 24 hours of uncomfortable colic. But she did get older, stopped eating throughout the night, began pooping in the toilet and no longer has colic.

When I think back, I know that we must have cherished some of those early months and years. I have reels of video tape taken of a smiling baby lying comfortably on the floor, arms waving and legs kicking: hours and hours and hours of footage. We found her fascinating: the tiny toes, the fingers that really worked, the smile she gave us just because we came into her line of vision. Sometimes she still smiles at us like that and our hearts expand in just the same way now as they did then.

So much of childrearing is logistical, though. There are wide gaps in our video library and in our memories as well: times when we were simply too busy making sure that the teeth and hair got brushed, the lunch was in the backpack, the homework was done, the extracurricular activities had been attended, the bath taken, the required reading finished before bed. To be honest, thoughts of cherishing our daughter's presence in our lives were often simply overwhelmed by the exhaustion of being a parent.

Certain things do come to mind though...

Emilie at two, sitting in her stroller on a windy day, arms outstretched, face turned upwards, shaking her blond curls, shouting, "Windyyyyyyyyy."

Emilie's preschool teacher taking us aside one day to give us her sincere condolences about our dog dying, telling us that Emilie had shared the sad news with them that day. Of course, this was a tremendous surprise to us because we didn't have a dog.

First grade, when she had her tonsils taken out and I ate Chinese food with my left hand because she was cuddled up and sleeping on my right arm.

Her third grade science fair project, when she had me draw blood from my finger to see if adding salt, sugar and pepper would change the way it looked under a microscope. (She won first place for that one!)

Fifth grade when, once again, her internal desire to pursue science compelled her to purchase crickets to raise in different enviornments. I don't like bugs, so naturally, the crickets escaped and we spent several hours capturing them with our bare hands. (Did I mention I don't like bugs?)

Sixth grade when she came bursting through the front door after school, waving the envelope from Hunter College High School, shouting "I got in! I got in!" To which my dumb reply was: "Are you sure? Let me see that." (She still doesn't let me live that one down.)

I remember a day when she was in High School, the exact moment lost to me now, where I turned the corner in my apartment and saw a beautiful young woman standing there. It was with a jolt that I realized it was my daughter, suddenly and inexplicably all grown up.

The sound of her singing: in the shower, in her room, doing her homework (how do you sing and do homework at the same time?) I'll miss her singing.

Her voice on the telephone last summer when she suffered the traumatic partial amputation of her finger in a freak accident while away for six weeks in California. "I'm going to be ok, Mom. I promise. Don't make me come home. I'll be fine." And she was. God, my daughter is brave.

How lovely she looked on the night of her prom. Her blonde hair pulled up off of her neck, rhinestones sparkling in her ears, only outshone by the radiant look on her face.

And in her cap and gown. Diploma in hand. Smiling right into my camera. Triumphant, strong, capable. Ready for college.

We cannot cherish every moment of our children's lives. But we can remember the special ones. And memories are a gift. First you get to cherish the experience, and then you can cherish it again and again and again.

Rediscover your memories. And cherish your children. Time does indeed fly by.