I held my daughter close to my chest, tried to be as still as possible, and sang her one lullaby after another. I squinted my eyes trying my best to read my watch in the dark, but couldn’t see the numbers. I was frustrated and tired, but I needed to get my daughter to sleep, my wife and I needed our own sleep. We were operating on our last thread.
When I thought my daughter was finally sleeping, I put her down in her crib. Of course, she woke up crying bloody murder.
Right back at it, daddy.
When our middle son was the same age, he would have none of that. As soon as I started singing, he’d wake up, it was concert time, his time to wake up and wiggle his legs and arms.
And finally our youngest son was onto my wife and my tricks, I’d start singing and he’d put his tiny hands up to my mouth, indicating that he wanted me to stop. Stop daddy, stop. If he could have talked, he would’ve been demanding a new station.
Falling asleep standing up
With the birth of each of my children, I remember feeling pure exhaustion, trying to juggle work and home and feeling like I was a miserable failure. I couldn’t keep any of the myriad of circus balls in the air. I would think that I was doing okay and then something — a cold or a change in the weekly schedule — would come out of a left field and one ball, then another, and another would fall harmlessly to the ground. Those days seemed to drag forever.
And I look up now and the years seemed to have rushed past us like a speeding car zooming up the highway or mist on the grass. Here one minute, gone the next. Gretchin Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project and The Four Tendencies, described it better than I ever could, writing that “the days are long, but the years are short.”
Here’s what I mean.
The days are long:
–Yesterday I remember holding my daughter’s hand to introduce her to her baby brother. She was sweaty from playing with my sister-in-law and her then boyfriend, but she was still anxious to see her mommy and the bundle of joy that she wanted to name Hazel Mabel.
–Yesterday, I watched as my oldest son looked at me, then at the doctor. He couldn’t believe his luck. The doctor had told him to run to the other side of the building. We taught him to walk indoors and here the doctor said to run. When I shook my head yes, that it was okay, he was off. He didn’t need to be told twice. And off he toddled.
–Yesterday, I held my youngest son to peak up over the counter to grab his water ice. He couldn’t believe his luck, he was getting a huge cup all to himself. He wiggled in my hands, he couldn’t wait.
–Yesterday, I carried my daughter into the hospital. She had a temperature that seemed to spike another ten degrees every few seconds. She was clammy and weighted next to nothing. A cold wind would’ve blown her over. My wife and I worried that we might lose her.
–Yesterday, I asked to meet my son’s school principal. I’m normally pretty quiet. I tend to believe Mary Poppins is right when she says that an ounce of sugar goes further than fiery medicine, but not on this day. I wanted to know why my daughter had to stand up for her brother against a playground bully.
–Yesterday, my son huddled to keep out of the rain. We were caught in the rain in historic Williamsburg, Virginia. He saw the rain and the black clouds and worried that we were going to be washed away. Of course, we weren’t. I whisked him up in my arms, grabbed my daughters hand with my other hand, and made a run for a waiting bus.
The years are short:
–And just like that, my oldest son graduates the end of this month from boot camp. He’s a man. He’s got more muscles that I’ve ever had in my life.
The story gets better.
One day later, my daughter graduates from college. She’s Phi Beta Kappa. The little girl that used to love carting home a stack of library books taller than her is racing-off to start her own adventures and life.
–My youngest son isn’t far behind. He still has a few years of high school left, but we all know that the years fly by. I worry that I’ll look down to tie my shoe and when I look up, he’ll be moving out of the house and off to college.
Yes, it’s true. The days are long, but the years are short, too short.