Over the course of the 17 years since my son burst into my world and made me a mother, I've washed countless dishes, done magnificent amounts of laundry, and picked up more things from the floor than I can ever hope to estimate.
And today, as I was washing the blender that he left full of dried oreo milkshake residue, I couldn't stop the tears from pouring down my cheeks. Because in just a few short months, he will be graduating from high school and enlisting in the military. And you know what? There will be no more oreo shake residue on any of my dishes. And although I could not be happier for him or prouder of him, still ... the tears come.
So although it's hard to see what I'm typing through teary eyes, I'm writing anyway, because I want to tell you something important: Please, don't make a big deal over small things. Someday, those things that drive you crazy about your kids will also make you cry.
In the final few months we have together, the last thing I want to do is harp on him about his stupid dishes. I find myself offering to do his laundry. I am cherishing every mess he makes, knowing that soon, my house will be spotless, and quiet, and he'll be sending me letters and emails instead of sitting down with me spilling hot chocolate all over the kitchen table while he tells me about his day.
I think he must be feeling it coming too, a little bit. He's been asking to join me when I run errands for no good reason. He's been taking me out for lunch, and asking me to go shopping with him or help him start packing up his room. All is as it should be - he's ready, and it's time for him to take over full responsibility for his own life.
So I guess I just want to send you a message from your future: Your days of hassle and mess and noise are numbered.
Do your best to keep your sense of humor and perspective on all the chaos that comes with having young children.
Find one thing each day that you can just let go of, and laugh together instead.
Go find your children right now, and hug them for no reason.
Indulge them sometimes just because you can.
Give in more.
Buy them something at the checkout stand every once in a while.
Let them eat freshly baked cookies with milk for lunch. Join them.
Go out in the backyard and run through the sprinkler with them.
Make more messes together.
When you are standing in my shoes, I promise you will not regret doing these things. Parents sometimes think they CAN'T lighten up, or their kids will not learn good values. But that's not the case - they are learning far more from watching you than from what you teach them. So spend less time teaching, and more time playing.
It's really okay to relax, connect, and enjoy your kids.
If not now, when?