Baby turned toddler turned boy.
I think to myself how it really is true what all those old ladies say, those ones who stop young families in the grocery store.
You know the ones.
They're the ones with the silver hair, the twinkling eyes and the kind smiles. They're the ones who've been watching us from across the cucumber bins and seen how I've sighed with exasperation at my toddler who has once again reached into the shopping cart behind him, grabbed a cuccumber wrapped in cellophane and indiscriminately taken a gigantic bite of plastic mixed with vegetable.
They're the ones whose eyes dance merrily as they've watched me lift Ella's jaw from the germ-covered shopping cart handlebar that she's vigorously using as a teething ring.
They walk over. Our eyes meet.
In each setting the words might be slightly different, but the message is always the same: "Enjoy this time, dear. Enjoy this time with your little ones. It passes so quickly. Mine are grown and have kids of their own. Enjoy this time."
Do they literally mean THIS moment? This moment where Jake has wandered off looking for clementines and Josh is munching on indigestible plastic and Ella is happily teething on the germ-laden shopping cart handle?
The answer is so obvious.
Enjoy this moment, and not just because it's passing. Enjoy this moment because our lives are a connected sequence of ordinary, grocery store moments.
Sometimes it's easier to do a good job at the big days and to delight in the important days, the days that require special breakfasts or novel treats. But most of life is made up of the days and moments in between, the days that involve groceries and errands and cooking and cleaning and laundry.
The measure of productivity, as a parent, is not necessarily in how many items I can cross of my "To Do" list, important as those items may be. As a parent, the measure of ultimate fruitfulness is often when I seek the grace to grind the pace to a halt, and rather than rushing through the moment to complete a specific task, instead pause, looking into the eyes and hearts of my little people.
The words of those older, kind souls in the produce section of the grocery store? They are words that have emerged after a life lived, after years passed. They're words that one day, when my own hair is gray and the wrinkles around my own eyes have become pronounced, I too will say to those younger parents in my path.
One day that will be me.
My children will be grown. The fantasy of sleeping through the night will have once again become a reality. And I'll think back through laughter and tears to those precious years with my own little ones. It will seem a distant memory, them sleeping in their brand-new Superman pajamas.
And when it's me, older, grayer, wiser... I too will pass along such words of truth:
"Enjoy this time. How quickly it all will pass."