So, this weekend I heard about a Web site where you can send a letter to your future self. It's being hailed as the New Age letter in a bottle, the modern-day time capsule. You simply write your letter, input your e-mail address, select a date to have the letter returned, and—voilà!
I decided that I had to try it, since I spend so much of my time these days trying to peer into the future anyway. I can't tell you how often I search Charlie's and Julia's faces for a hint of the grown-up features that lie hidden inside their chubby baby cheeks, wondering what they'll look like when they're older -- wondering what they'll be like. And the irony is that years from now, when they are grown up, I know that I'll be looking at their angular cheekbones and their solid jaw lines trying to catch a glimpse of their baby faces, trying to see into the past, to when they were babies... to these very days.
So, I decided to write this letter, which is scheduled to be sent back to me on Charlie's 25th birthday:
Dear Future Me,
If you are reading this, 25 years have passed. I know it probably seems like just yesterday -- just yesterday when Julia was a precocious almost-3-year-old and Charlie was your snuggly baby. Just yesterday when you were kissing Charlie's toes, bundling up a just-bathed Julia, curling up together in bed.
I know you must miss your babies desperately. I know that you are probably yearning to have them back -- aching to hold them again. I can almost see you pulling out the photo albums, dusting them off, flipping back through the years. I see you sitting there, surrounded by your crumpled pile of Kleenex and your boxes full of the things you carried -- Julia's artwork, Charlie's handprints, the tiny little booties and hats. I see you, fingering that lock of blonde curls from Julia's first haircut, burying your nose in Charlie's coming-home-from-the-hospital outfit, marveling at the size of the tiny hospital bracelets that once wrapped themselves around their little wrists and ankles. I see you freezing that frame in the home movie, reaching for another Kleenex...
And, I'm writing to tell you to stop.
I am writing to tell you that you can't live in the past any more than I can live in the future.
I am writing to remind you that it wasn't always a walk in the park, and that you're seeing these years with a coat of varnish on them, through the selective, rose-colored lenses of time and memory.
I am writing to remind you that it wasn't all sweet baby smells and sunny smiles. That there were days when Charlie screamed so much, it felt like someone was using a jackhammer inside your skull. That there were days when it took two hours just to leave the house. When there were five loads of laundry to do and four meals to prepare and three deadlines to meet and two hours of sleep. When the house got dirty faster than you could clean it. When little people needed something from you every minute of every day -- a drink, a snack, a hug, a story, a dry pair of pants, a clean diaper, a partner for hide-and-seek. There were days when you couldn't finish the simplest task, when you couldn't go to the bathroom by yourself, when you couldn't shower, when you couldn't sit down to eat. When you couldn't get 15 minutes to yourself. When you fantasized about having an hour to play the piano, or go for a walk, orsit in a coffee shop. When there was always an extra little body or two in bed. When you had to pay a babysitter to spend time alone with Will.
I want you to remember that. Because I know you won't.
I hope that you are reading this with Will. In bed. On a lazy morning. I hope that you remembered to take care of each other, and your marriage, along the way—and that you are now sharing the memory of those baby years with him, just as you shared the years with him.
I hope that when you look back on the time you spent raising your kids, that your chest swells with pride in the job you have done -- in the children you have raised. No doubt they are the kind, compassionate, thoughtful people you and Will raised them to be. Whether they're on to great successes or still finding their way, I hope that you can rest easy in the knowledge that you have done your job well, and that they'll be OK.
So, for now, do me a favor, and put away the photo albums. Go take a walk. Play the piano. Travel. Read. Be with Will. Enjoy.
Go and live your life, knowing that your past you is here, doing her very best to focus on this time with these children—while they are children—so you don't have to.
(But I know you still will.)
p.s. Did we ever fit back into those skinny jeans?
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Read the next entry: 4.9.07: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory