It was 6:30 a.m. and I was standing around with the other runners, waiting for our half marathon to begin. I was still sleepy, hoping that my adrenaline rush would kick in before I began my race. I got stuck in a stare, when a teenage boy walked by me. He crossed my line of vision and snapped me out of my daze. He was maybe fifteen years old and I could tell that he was also about to run the race from the numbered bib that was pinned to his shirt. He was taller than I am, and was thin and fit. He had short-cropped hair that was the same color as my two-year-old’s. In fact, looking at him was like looking at my two-year-old through some bizarre time machine glasses. He had the same soft features, with kind-looking almond eyes, and delicate, fair skin.
In that moment just after dawn, over two years since I had my first son (and five months after giving birth to my second), I envisioned what my two little boys might one day be like. Sure, I have imagined them as adults, and my husband and I have discussed what they might one day be like. But it never seemed real to me – it was always more of an idea than anything. We have been so stuck in the trenches with two small children that it has been incredibly difficult to see past the fog. We’re right in the middle of sleepless nights, tantrums, and double diaper changes. I have a hard enough time wrapping my head around what is to come for the day when I wake up in the morning, never mind years and years down the road.
But now, looking at this boy who was about to run this race with me, I could clearly see my own son. Before I know it, Jake and Nate might be running races with me. Maybe they’ll enjoy going on long runs with me early on Saturday mornings. Or maybe they’ll take after their father and develop a keen eye for design. Which one will love cooking our family’s Italian recipes? Maybe both? Who will love numbers and math?
At 6:30 a.m., before my race, I finally imagined my boys as the young men that they would become. At last, I recognized them not as toddlers and infants who line up trucks around my house, spit up after every meal, or wake us up all night, every night.
In that moment, I realized how quickly the next few years will seem to go – mostly thanks to my sleep deprivation. Before I know it, I will be standing around waiting for a half marathon to begin with my little guys. Then we’ll come home (after they’ve run far faster than I ever could) and we’ll celebrate another race under our belts. They’ll raid the fridge. One will pick a fight with the other. We’ll discuss what’s happening in the world. They’ll be bigger than me, unable to comfortably sit in my lap anymore while we chat.
The thought of my sons being young men is bittersweet. How sad I’ll be to no longer be big enough or strong enough to carry them to their rooms. How much longing I’ll feel for the days when a quick tickle or a silly joke makes them laugh. But how in love I’ll be with how beautifully they’ve grown. How proud I’ll be of the good people that they will have become.
While my guys are still teeny, I will do my best to mark as many moments as possible. I will try to cherish the sweet tidbits and not be so overwhelmed by how hard raising kids can be. I will try not to be bored by the minutia. And I will not wish for them to grow up quickly because I know full-well that that time will come far too soon. But I will embrace my growing boys and do my best to help them become the best versions of themselves possible. That is my pledge.