by Melody Tan | 17 January 2024
There is an often-quoted saying when you become a parent: “The nights are long, but the years are short.” The idea is that while whatever period of parenthood you are in may feel arduous and tedious, the beauty of nostalgia provides you not only with the ability to reminisce and think, Wow, that went fast, but even miss it.
I read a rather tear-jerking piece based on that saying once. It detailed the various things that would keep a parent up late at night and juxtaposed it against milestones a child experiences in that very same period. It’s a development that marks the child’s independence and slow departure from under the protective wings of said parent.
For example: “The nights are long . . . when he’s out with his friends and you hope he’ll be a leader rather than a follower. . . . The years are short . . . when the one you thought would never sleep, would now sleep until noon if you let him.”
Maybe it’s just me, but as a parent, there’s this constant push-pull of emotions I feel towards my child. He can frustrate me so much in our day-to-day interactions. Yet, in a moment of stillness, I hope my heart will stay whole when the time comes for him to fly away from the nest.
The nights are long—you wonder why you ever inflicted parenthood on yourself. The years so very short—you wish you could hold their sweet, little (preferably non-wriggling) bodies close to you forever.
As I sit here in the dark, writing these words at 4.30 am, the night is very, very long. My seven-year-old had called out to me from his bed half an hour ago, “Mummy, come.” It’s not a loud call, but it’s enough to drag me out from dreamworld, like it does most nights.
Sleep is a time when my son still feels particularly vulnerable and so it often doesn’t come easy. We’re doing great compared to a year or two ago. At least when he wakes, it’s usually only once a night. Also, he does sometimes sleep through the night.
It doesn’t take much to coax him back to sleep when he wakes in the middle of the night. Usually, I’m also able to stagger back into my bed and return to sleep.
Tonight, however, the night is long.
I’ve tossed and turned in bed trying to fall back asleep but my mind is whirring, worrying about nothing in particular, simply refusing to relax enough for drowsiness to reclaim me. I’m hearing the birds wake up, and soon, the soft glow of the morning sun will brighten the room I’m in. Not long after, my son will wake and I’ll be starting the day on the back foot, with a less than optimal amount of sleep.
The night is long.
The push-pull of emotions.
During times like these, I often wonder why I chose to be a mum. I don’t mean to be flippant. I am fully aware how parenthood eludes others who desperately seek it, and I know it’s a wonderful privilege that God has given me.
However, I also yearn for the independence I used to enjoy, unencumbered by a progeny. When I could go wherever I wanted, do whatever I wished, have dinner at any time I craved without worrying about its implications on somebody else.
I mourn the time when I was responsible for nobody else but myself. When my time belonged to nobody else but me.
I miss the fact my priorities have been overshadowed by those of a munchkin that physically takes up half the space I do—and yet has taken over my entire world.
However, I also yearn for more storage space on my phone because 90 percent of the photos taking up precious megabytes are that of the very same child. Even blurry ones and those multiple shots where the only difference is a slight tilt of the head or a change in angle of a limb—images I refuse to delete because they’re of a being that has taken over my entire heart.
I mourn the time when my baby was a real baby, with his sweet scents and gentle coos. And while I understand he will soon gain independence and need me less and less, I dread the time when I’m no longer the first person he looks for when he is scared, hurt, or lonely.
I miss the company of the one who has become such a huge part of my life, during those quiet moments in the hotel alone when I travel for work—even on my very first night away.
At the end of the day, no matter how much he frustrates me, no matter how touched out I feel and no matter how much my introverted tendencies crave to simply be left alone, the love I have for him far outweighs everything.
I want him to give him the best foundation I can provide so that he can have the best life he can lead. Even as I draw boundaries around him to protect and guide him, I will always forgive and embrace him regardless of how much he pushes or even crosses them.
So even if the nights are long, I will continue to go to him whenever he needs me, even at four in the morning. Even if the push feels strong, I will continue to love him, no matter what.
No wonder God calls us God’s children. The push of our sinful behavior must make Him feel the nights are so very long.
It’s comforting, however, to know that the pull of His love for us is much, much stronger.
Melody Tan is a freelance writer, content creator, and editor for both print and digital. She is currently the project leader of Mums At The Table, a multimedia initiative aimed at supporting mums in their parenting journey, through education and community. She and her husband live in Sydney, Australia, with their seven-year-old son.