Guest Post: Don’t Wish It Away by Melissa Cohen

“The days are long, but the years are short.”  I don’t know when it was that I first heard that saying, but I do know that it stuck with me.  I repeated it often, sometimes to myself when my daughter was young, and sometimes to new moms when they felt overwhelmed by parenting and needed a reassuring word.

The days are really long when you are a new mother. They are also often indistinguishable from the nights, and from one to another. The diapers, the feeding, the crying, the soothing….rinse and repeat.  It feels like you will never get out of this stage.

But you do. And suddenly you are parenting a toddler, and then a kindergartner, and then an eight year old…and so on.  Each stage brings new excitement, new milestones but also some goodbyes. I remember when my daughter “graduated” from preschool. She had been in the same program for three years, and I felt a wave of mild nausea pass over me as I stood in her classroom on that last day, realizing that I would never see some of those families again. We were moving on to various different schools; some public, some private, some local, some farther. This was the first of many such goodbyes.

I myself am an only child.  It was therefore not that unusual to me to be the mother of one.  People would ask me all the time, didn’t I miss having a brother or sister?  I always answered truthfully. How can you miss what you never had?  I did sometimes wish that I had siblings. I would see friends who had big, close Waltons-esque families, and think how nice that must be. And then I would see friends who had siblings that they despised and would (at least they claimed) run them over in the street as soon as speak with them.  So while I sometimes wondered what it would be like, I did not feel that I was lacking anything.

When my daughter was born, I was not so old as to be competing for an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records, but I distinctly remember being amused and slightly horrified at the designation of “advanced maternal age” on my chart. I was also instantly smitten, from the moment I first saw her tiny image on ultrasound, only to be positively overwhelmed with emotion the first time I held her. I tried to always do right by her, sometimes a little too much so. I was told more than once that when she told me to jump, I moved just a little too quickly. But that’s a mother’s love sometimes. We will do anything for our children.

Somehow, I now find myself the mother of an eighteen year old.  In early June, I went to her school, in order to drop off money for her prom.  As I walked through the doors, it hit me like a ton of bricks. That same feeling that I had at her preschool, but so much stronger.  That was quite probably going to be the last time I would set foot in the building. It felt surreal.  My daughter attended a small school with a graduating class of 62.  By comparison, mine was 695.  Some of those 62 were “lifers”, having been there since kindergarten. Others, like my daughter, came later. But they have all grown up together, to some degree. They all went through the joys and sadness and pressures and stressors of high school together.  And now, they will all be going their separate ways.  

In a few short weeks, I will officially be an empty-nester. It will happen all at once. Unlike many of my friends who will have other kids at home when their oldest goes to college, our NYC apartment will suddenly seem a lot bigger and a lot emptier in late August.  I am not sure I am ready for this. In fact, I am pretty certain that I am not, but would I ever be?  I am so excited for what lies ahead for my daughter.  My years at college were some of the best of my life.  She is an avid learner, and I am excited for her to get out of her New York City bubble.  But oh, I will miss her terribly. Because believe me, the days were long, but the years were very, very short.