“Look at me, Mama! Look at me!”
K is in a “Look at me” phase. Drawings, cartwheels, beaded necklaces. You name it, she wants it seen. I have a cache of responses for her refrain. They are what I deem generic-mom-responses: Look at you! I see! You must be proud! They apply to a wide variety of situations, and attempt to keep from the constant praise of which we parents are warned to steer clear. They can also be delivered without actually seeing. This is useful if I’m right in the middle of something or in the other room. Not the greatest present-parenting, I know, but these requests are almost endless, and we do occasionally need me doing other things.
She came to me, though, as I was fixing dinner the other day, and stood in the door with a “Look at me, Mama!” For a second, I flashed back to my wedding day. As I got ready to go downstairs, a young and blushing bride, my mom looked at me with tears in her eyes. “I can still see you, running into the kitchen at five years old, shouting ‘Look at me, mama!’ And all of a sudden, here you are. I don’t know where the time went, because you really were just five.”
I know where the time went. It goes where all time goes–consumed one second at a time, and whether that’s consumed by important or unimportant things, it’s consumed nonetheless. The problem is, we were made for the eternal: “I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11). The ache we feel at the constant and unending passage of time simply reminds us that our inner, God-given natures long for the rest of eternity.
K will turn five next week. She will, most likely, one day be that bride. I am sure it will pass too quickly, almost without my noticing. Time is funny like that, and not just for grownups. Just last night she broke down in tears at the thought that someday she might leave us. We do not appreciate it enough, mostly because we cannot appreciate it enough. I accept this, knowing again that this world is only temporary, and that someday I will feel peace.
But that day, I looked. I really looked. I watched as K twirled on her tiptoes in a spin, her hands in the air, her white blond curls forming a halo around her head, an uninhibited smile across her face. And this week, I watched M shooting baskets, recording in my mind the way that his whole body seemed to stretch up with the effort it takes a six-year-old to get a ball into a basket. I danced with her in the living room to Muppets music, our hands tight as we spun together. I played chess against M, game after game, the house quiet with our concentration. I held them both while we prayed, their heads heavy with sleep.
Time may pass, with or without my looking, but I’m determined to make memories that will last forever.