I found my first gray hair today.
I sat in the passenger seat of the car while my husband drove us to the movie theater for our first date without the kids in over a year. I flipped the visor down, opened the mirror to inspect my makeup, and spotted it front and center at the hairline on my forehead. Seemingly innocuous, comparatively short to the rest of my hairs. Sturdy. I plucked it just to be sure that it was what I thought it was. I set it against the black sleeve of my husband’s coat for contrast. It was, without a doubt, a silver strand.
I held it between my fingers for a bit, twisting it this way and that, holding it against the sunlight as we rode along. Could I really have gray hair? But I’m only…
How did this happen? How do I stop it?
More importantly, how do I enjoy the here and now? The single strand of gray hair?
I’m not sure why, but this seems to be the year for going to Disney World. Several friends in my Facebook news feed have either recently been, are currently visiting, or are planning a trip to what’s widely considered the happiest place on Earth (And it is. I have been and can verify.) I find myself envious of these families who are treating their young children to such an adventure. I imagine what fun it must be to break the news to them that they’ll soon be on a plane to meet Mickey Mouse.
You might say that I can’t wait to take my kids there.
My husband and I have agreed for a while now that we would take a trip to Disney World when all of our children were old enough to remember it, enjoy it, and ride on most of the rides. No babies, no strollers, no diaper bags, no parent having to ride the bench with an infant or toddler all day while the other one gets to do the fun stuff. Since we plan on having another child, we estimate that we’ll be going to see The Mouse when our kids are 9, 7, and 5. Since our oldest is only 2 now, that means seven more years of waiting our turn for the big Disney trip.
Seven years. That’s a long time to wait and to have to hear about everyone else’s awesome time in Disney World. Nearly a decade will pass between now and the time we finally pack our bags for Orlando. And I find myself saying things like “I can’t wait to take my kids to Disney World.” And I need to stop saying things like that. Because I also say things like, “I can’t wait until the ten month-old starts walking,” and “I can’t wait until the toddler is potty-trained.” I can’t wait for this, I can’t wait for that.
I can wait. I want to wait.
This is all happening too fast. Much faster than I’d like. And there’s absolutely nothing that I or anybody else can do to slow it down. The kids are growing, the hairs on my head are changing colors. Life is happening, ticking along, meandering towards its inevitable end. It’s terrifying. So when I say things like “I can’t wait for this,” what I’m really saying is that I’m impatient with the speed at which life is traveling and I need this event or that milestone to happen faster, to arrive sooner. And that’s simply not true. If anything, I’d rather that life move a whole hell of a lot slower than faster.
I can wait. Disney World and baby’s first steps can wait, too. (Potty-training could actually happen any time it wants to. I welcome it with wide open arms.)
I don’t say any of this with the intention of dismissing the very real challenges of everyday life. Today is hard. It is hard to take care of two small children. It is hard to get such little sleep. It’s hard not to want them to be independent, to be able to dress and feed themselves. It’s hard to spend most of my day negotiating with a toddler on absolutely everything, from the color of the socks she’ll agree to wear to the right color dinner plate that she’ll let you put her food on. It’s hard to nurse a baby what seems like a hundred times a day. Life, right now, can be hard.
But I promise I’ll savor it. I’ll savor these hard days, because the days after them will be hard for different, probably bigger, reasons. Parents will pass away, and surviving that pain will be immeasurably harder than fighting over sock choices. Teenaged children will keep secrets from us, and accepting that we are not needed for everything anymore will be far harder than nursing a baby. Life will get harder. On we will go.
I can wait. All of it can wait. Today is all I’ve got. This toddler, this baby, and this husband are what I’ve got here and now.
Oh, and this gray hair. And I can definitely wait on getting more of those.