Three women from very different spheres of my life all made the same comment to me this week. I don’t know if it’s just because the holiday rush is over or if the beginning of the year draws out a little more reflection on the bigger picture of our lives, but they all talked about the adjustment from how things “used to be.” It took a while to realize that I had been feeling the same tension, but hadn’t put it into words.

When our kids are young, the world, as far as it involves them, stays insular. We control every piece and experience every event. If they make friends, we are the ones that plan the playdates (or not). If they sign up for an activity, it’s because we’ve chosen it for them. Even when they start school, we define the schedule surrounding those hours.

But slowly, so slowly you miss it, that tiny bubble grows. It changes from just you and your babies, to you, your kids and a handful of other people, and before you know it, their lives, along with yours, is shaped by so many outside sources. You have to share not only your child but your control with homework, sports, activities, your own job, carpooling, electronics, and the list goes on.

It hit me after it rained in our area for a week. I thought about how beautiful it would be to go for a hike while everything was green and new. A few years ago, we hiked at least one day every week after school without really planning anything. But on the heels of that lovely image of us out in the green, came the reality that between sports, lessons, homework, and my work, there would be very little time for walking. I have to share my kids and our time together with the increased demands of life as they grow into adults. I suppose this is how it’s supposed to be. Kids grow up.

I miss the days when a hike happened naturally. Or a trip to the library. Or a tea party on the patio so that we can watch the doggies on the trail. But really what I miss is when their world and mine overlapped so completely. I miss everything being so RIGHT NOW. They were hungry. I fed them. Tired. We took a nap. They would see one of those dogs pass by and nothing in the whole world could be better than that puppy. Until the next one trotted by.

My friends, these women that talk with me, are more wise and knowing than me. One told me that as much as we tried to appreciate our kids while they were little, this looking back gives us a very special perspective. We see just how precious that small space of time was. And then we mourn a bit, because things can never be that way again. And it is okay to mourn.

Friends, take the time to mourn if you need it. Embrace that unique perspective and cherish the time you had. If you can, take some time to cherish the kids you have now, too. I think I’m going to find time to take that walk, while my kids are still mine to enjoy.