By Kelly Hines

“You’ll miss this one day,” says the elderly woman in the parking lot of the grocery store. She is watching me herd my children toward the car. My five year old son has just stepped on the jumbo-sized carton of eggs because he insists on riding on the cart. I’m sure this is totally dangerous (right?), but he is my third kid and cart riding is so far down on the list of concerns, it’s laughable. It’s further down than broken eggs, that’s for sure.

My eight year old and the fourteen year old are arguing because that’s what they do. It’s like breathing to them. The teenager is supremely annoyed by any kind of bodily noise – burps, farts, tummy rumbles, sniffles, saliva, throat clearing. She wills her own body into complete silence, apparently. The eight year old is a champion body noise maker, she even breathes at top volume. Anytime they are within ten feet of each other, it’s an all out assault.

I have somehow forgotten that I needed to pee four hours ago and am at a critical urinary juncture. I would like to expend some mental energy listening to Meemaw wax poetic about raising children, but right now it is taking every ounce of willpower I have to not wet myself. So instead, I smile and nod.

Yes, yes, I think. One day I’ll miss this. Like a hole in the head.

I WILL miss a lot of things about having little kids. I’ll miss sweet notes with funny spellings and sticky little bodies crawling all over me. I’ll miss kids snuggling up into our big bed after a nightmare. I’ll miss the unique mom-ability of being able to make everything alright simply by being present.

But if I never have to help a kid brush their teeth or rinse shampoo out of one side of their hair (when the other side has remained miraculously dry), it will be too soon. I will not miss math homework.

Abruptly, surprisingly, this is where my list ends. I would say I won’t miss laundry, but folding tiny things is a stark reminder of their smallness. I would say I won’t miss giving baths, but it’s such a sweet and loving way to care for them. I would say I won’t miss the volume, because my children are hands down the loudest children in the world, but it’s the soundtrack to my life. The idea of not having them underfoot, making mischief and causing infinite grey hairs, is unfathomable. I think of the day when they’ve all moved away and my throat seizes up. It is actually, acutely, physically painful.

“It goes by so fast,” the woman in the parking lot says. She’s right, of course. Some days I want to weep with the hardness of it, and I wish it would go by a little faster. But some days, I want to stop it all cold. I want to freeze this place right now, before things get too complicated, before they decide they don’t need me anymore. Before I lose the ability to make everything better just by being mom. I will miss it, every bit of it. Except maybe the math homework.