actually, you probably will really miss these days

We still call her "the baby." I still breastfeed (all day and all night). Her hands still have that sweet, plump, dimply look to them. She is definitely still the baby of the family, but it just occurred to me that I only have a few precious months left of Chase's babyhood. For real. She will be three in ten months, and while I'm definitely not counting, because I haven't counted any time in Chase's life, it's inevitable and will be here before I know it. Probably before I'm ready.

Yes, Chase is my one child with whom I haven't counted down the days or months until dates or milestones. I barely accepted in time that she was almost two. With River and Austen, weeks before their upcoming birthdays, I had already started thinking of them as the next age. But with Chase, instead of looking forward to the next phase, I've soaked up and truly enjoyed every one we are in at the present. I learned the hard way with River, and even with Austen a little bit, that time is fleeting, children aren't as grown up as they seem to a new parent, and I will desperately wish for some way to go back and enjoy the baby they once were.

This is the time when they grow so fast. They change so rapidly. As life would have it, you can go months without seeing a friend, years even -- and when you are reunited, it's as if time hasn't passed. They look the same. Probably talk the same. As far as their mannerisms and personality, they don't change much. Way to state the obvious, right? But children... children change so quickly, you can blink and they are spouting off brand new words like "spicy" and "full" and "itchy," and suddenly they know their colors and they can run for more than 10 paces without falling on their face. Their chunk melts away and they lose the rubber-band-around-the-wrist look. Their hair grows and they can wear it in a ponytail all of a sudden and look like a twelve-year-old even though they are two. How the heck is that even possible? And this could all happen in a month.

And then there's that blog post or meme or whetever going around that reminds all parents that there will be last times... the last time you pick them up and carry them on your hip, the last time you hold them on your lap, the last bedtime story, the last ouchie kiss, the last time they fall asleep in your arms. If that isn't a knife in your heart!

Of course, there is always the grandma with good intentions, reminding you -- after your Facebook rant about how Bobby clogged the toilet with three rolls of toilet paper after feeding the dog his entire lunch and streaking through the front yard naked -- that there are "the good old days" and how you'll "miss them" and to "cherish these moments." And we puff and think easy for you to say, Debra. When was the last time you had to wake up to a screaming, soaked toddler at 4am?

But y'all, I think we need these reminders. Not because it's wrong to feel like we're going crazy, and definitely not because we shouldn't vent or be honest about how hard it can be... because motherhood is tough, and if there's a mother who doesn't feel like that every now and then (or 90% of the time) then I don't want to know her. I think we need reminders because, and call me sentimental here, but as hard as it is, I think the beautiful moments outweigh the crazy ones. Definitely not in an even, paved-road way. But for every bumpy stretch there will be really gorgeous sights to see. Ones that will catch your breath. We don't want to miss those and then realize later that we could have enjoyed them while we were too busy complaining about all the pot holes that should have been filled.

I missed so much of River's toddlerhood. Between learning how to be a mom of two, to dealing with a colicky baby and postpartum depression and a move across the country, I didn't have the time or emotional capacity to see what was in front of me, this beautiful child who was still very much a baby and needing a mama who was more patient and slow and understanding. Sometimes I get angry at the past me, because I would give anything, anything to go back and do it all over again. I truly would. I would live through the sleepless nights, the vomit, the scary moments, everything... if it meant I could get a re-do and really enjoy River as a two, three, and four year old. AND GUYS. That's saying a lot because if you know me, you know how much I hate the threes. Phew.

I'm trying not to make that mistake with Chase. But lately, I'm finding it's easier to complain. It's easier to be short with her and get annoyed with her clinginess, her quirks. But then I look at the curve of her cheek when she's nursing, her little, bulging tummy when she's waiting for the bath to fill up with warm water, or I notice the way she smells like milk and sleep when she wakes up... and I'm reminded that I only have a little bit of time left. Just a little bit. A blip in comparison to the rest of her life. Because someday she really will be twelve, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, and she won't need me to rock her to sleep. So for now, it's okay. It really is.

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