A couple of weeks ago, Joe and I took our two youngest daughters on a weekend ski trip. It was a perfect weekend…cozy condo, a fireplace and hot chocolate, movies and a jacuzzi, games and brunch, perfect weather conditions and snow at the ski resort. It was expensive, but worth every penny on so many levels. We were together every minute for three days, we cooked and ate and played and laughed and argued together. We did something fun and active and new and difficult together. Joe and I remembered our love for skiing, and Lainey and Halle discovered theirs. There is nothing like watching your teenagers tackle a difficult mountain on skis and emerge with pink cheeks and a glow of confidence that they have accomplished something big. Unless it is listening to them giggling in bed at night for hours.
As we took a midday break in the lodge, a woman was there with two very small children…1 and 4. She and the 4 year-old were dressed in ski clothes and the 1 year-old was running around and enjoying every second of being 1. Although the woman was patient and happy, she became increasingly frustrated as the lodge became more crowded and here children more energetic. She came close to us to gather them up, and said, “I can’t wait until they can both spend the day skiing instead of running through the lodge.” A simple encounter, but one that I’ve thought about a lot since them.
I wish I could rewind that moment and tell her what a fantastic job she was doing. She wanted her children to ski, and she was there and one was learning to ski and one would. And she would enjoy about 5 minutes of that time when they were both skiing and she could hug them and kiss their pink cheeks. Then, they would be off with their friends and they wouldn’t want her there and she would miss them in ways that she could never imagine. And she would probably spend the rest of her days as a mother feeling like something was missing…she would be happy and productive and fulfilled in other ways, but a piece of her would be out in the world somewhere without her and she would no longer be whole.
As fun as our weekend was, it wasn’t complete without our two oldest daughters. And hovering around the edges was some regret. You see, Joe and I had decided years ago that our children were going to be skiers and we had our oldest daughter, Courtnee, on skis at age 6. We talked and fantasized about winter ski trips as a family, and occasionally we looked at costs and dates. But we never took that trip…we were too busy, or too broke, or too tired. And now Courtnee is married and busy with her own life, and Riley is 18 and busy with her own life. And somehow we have gone from a family of 6 to a family of 4 most of the time. And every single day I ask myself how it happened.
I have heard it a million times, and you have too, but enjoy every minute you can with your children. It goes by so quickly, so unimaginably fast! And then they are gone and as a mother, you are empty…empty rooms, empty arms, empty schedule. But if you have worked hard to enjoy as much as possible, your mind and your heart will be full…full of love, and moments, and joy. And somehow, that full mind and that full heart will ease the pain of the emptiness and you will carry on, never entirely whole again, but grateful for every single minute you were and are a mother.