When I eventually graduated, it was a shock. I couldn't believe that all that time had come and gone. Up until that point, the passage of time had been elusive to me. Graduating from college was the first time in my life it had really caught up to me. The first time that, looking back, the years had gone by quickly. Much too quickly.
Once you reach a certain age - and I'm not quite sure what age this is, perhaps it's different for everyone - years start to pass you by. One right after the other, each one providing a shock and a reminder that this thing we call time is actually limited. I think that's because once you reach a certain age, we stop changing the way we used to. Sure, there are subtle changes - a few pounds, some gray hairs, some emotional growth, or even some drastic change in circumstance, but by and large, as adults, five years doesn't mean much.
I still have clothes in my closet that I wore five years ago. I still watch some of the same TV shows I watched five years ago. And when I look at pictures of myself five years ago, I don't look that different. My circumstances have changed, for sure, but in five years I haven't acquired any groundbreaking new skills. Or learned any new languages. Or made that many new friends, for that matter. I still have the same favorite restaurants, the same favorite foods, and I listen to much of the same music.
But watching a child over a five year time period.... it's nothing short of fascinating. The changes are so drastic. The years are so different - so much more meaningful, and so much more full. In becoming an adult, I had forgotten how the passage of time transforms. Until five years ago.
Five years ago today, I rushed to the hospital after my water broke. I endured a long labor, and at the end of it, I met one of the loves of my life:
This is what Braden looked like exactly five years ago. He was so precious, so helpless, so sweet. I fell in love with him, of course, and have done so every day since. But what is so amazing to look back on is the fact that a mere year later, he looked like this:
A year - a blip for me, was so full of growth for him. That year, he learned to eat. To sleep on a regular schedule. To crawl. To smile. To laugh. He got teeth and grew twice his size and was barely recognizable from the newborn I met a year prior. And just a year later, he looked like this:
In a year where I continued on as I always had, Braden went from crawling to walking. From babbling to talking. From a baby, to a toddler. From clingy, to independent. The changes were stark. And they continued. A year later, he looked like this:
That year, Braden went from crib to big boy bed. He became a linguist and talked a mile a minute. He started playing soccer and making friends independent of me. He went through a rough phase, where he proved to be as stubborn as his mommy. He grew inches and added pounds and wore Puma sneakers. He became a little boy. Not a baby, not a toddler. A little boy. And a year later, he looked like this...
That year, Braden bloomed socially. He became an amazing big brother, an amazing friend, and fell in love with a girl at school. He sat through full movies and demanded his favorite foods for dinner and used utensils and drank out of regular cups. He didn't just walk anymore - he ran, he jumped, he skipped, he danced. He drew us pictures and learned to write his name. And today...
Today Braden is getting too old for me to make him hold a silly sign with his birth date on it. The fact is, Braden isn't really a little boy anymore. He's a kid. The coolest kid I know, and I mean that. He is funny, outgoing, smart, and precocious. Yet he is also shy, reserved, emotional, and serious. He is still in love with the same girl in school, yet he has countless new friends, and is learning to hold his own in a crowd. He is starting to learn to read, and just earned his orange belt in karate. He loves music, but hates loud noises; he picks on his younger brother, but is adorably overprotective of him; he hates being the center of attention, but he puts on dance shows for us every evening. He is a surprise to me everyday, and the more I know him, the more I realize that I am not at all responsible for who he is, and who he will become. He is his own person through and through, and in five years, he has become just that. From a newborn baby, to a person, in a mere five years.
Just five years.
Yet, he still has such a long way to go. In the next five years and beyond, he will master reading and writing and learn how to ride a bike. He will become more independent and stop wanting me to cuddle with him before bed. He will learn manners and social norms and how to adjust to what is expected of him. Eventually, his friends will become more important than his family, he will fall in love for real, and he will develop dreams and goals. He will learn to cook and do his own laundry and drive himself to where he needs to be. He will learn through easy ways and hard ways how to have a real sense of responsibility, and he will develop his own notion of ethics and right and wrong. He will test me, he will scare me, and he will inspire me. He will grow up. Before I know it.
For me it will fly by, just as the past five years have. For him, it will seem like an eternity. Yet, here we are, living linearly, in the same reality. The same, but so, so different.
It will be a long time before we live on similar time planes. In the meantime, I will cherish each passing year, and try not to miss a thing. I know that these years will be the best of my life.
It's a shame they go by so fast.
Happy 5th Birthday, Braden. You've come a long way, and your mommy couldn't be prouder.