So, the other night, when my kindergartener fell asleep in my lap, why was I shocked by how big he has become? I remember putting him to the breast for the very first time. I remember smiling at the toothless grin on that little boy who took to nursing so easily. That very first time, when he fell asleep at my breast, he fit in the crook of one arm. When he fell asleep in my lap a few nights ago, he took up half the couch.
In my experience, we see them grow up, but we often don't see them. I watch them grow, so there's rarely a big jump from one age to the next. It's not until I look back at old pictures that I realize how young they looked a year or two (or eight) ago.
My oldest daughters are no longer babies, but I find that particularly difficult to believe. They're the same age I was when I started wearing a bra. A BRA for goodness sakes! Oh. My. Stars! I can't even think about my first babies wearing bras. I swear they're still toddlers. I still think of them that way even though one is now working her way through all the Harry Potter books in record time and the other is plotting ways to start a business to raise money for a laptop.
I don't think anything prepares you for this. Before you have kids, you hear people marveling over how quickly it goes and you think they're just sentimental saps. When your baby hits his/her first birthday, you may marvel at how quickly it has gone or how much they have changed (unless you have preemies. Then, if you're anything like me, when you get to the one year mark, you think, "It's about damn time!"), but even that only gives you a glimpse into how much you will be absolutely shocked by how these children grow and everything they learn.
I wish there was some way to tell mom or dad up yet again, rocking a fussing baby to sleep at 2 am that in a much shorter time then they expect, they'll relish those moments when their baby is 30+ pounds bigger and, in a very rare event, falls asleep sprawled out across mom or dad's lap.
A friend of mine likes to say, "This moment is brief," in regards to parenting troubles. She then adds, "You can take that whatever way you want." Maybe you take that as a comfort that these difficult times will end soon. Maybe it serves as a reminder that all of these moments are far too brief and we'll find ourselves longing for them in the not-too-distant future.