07/22/2016 03:29 EDT | Updated 07/22/2016 03:59 EDT

To The Mother I Met At The Beach, Thank You

Mother with son (6-7) and daughter (2-3) on beach
Jessica Peterson via Getty Images
Mother with son (6-7) and daughter (2-3) on beach

Dear Mama of Littles at the Beach,

I have been thinking about you since yesterday afternoon, when we chatted at the beach -- thinking about you and your precious Little Ones. I keep rewinding the video of them playing in my mind, so that I can watch your baby boy charge into the waves with delight, again and again.

I rewind to other parts, too: his little legs running like a little penguin up and down the shore, his little hands grasping a bucket of water, which he then proceeded to dump onto his protruding little belly -- over and over and over, with such abandon and joy. His adorable little voice and those squeals of delight! His fascination with the water and the sand and the shells and well, just everything, really.

What a precious time of life this is.

I have been thinking about you, too. How busy it all is. How much work it is to get all the little bodies there and intact, complete with strollers, diaper bags, snacks, slings, an extra change of clothes for each, water bottles and the like -- all the bells and whistles.

And let's not forget your sanity. I have been thinking about how hectic it is for mamas like you to go to the beach with nursing babies and toddlers in tow. You handled things like a champion. You were amazing yesterday, such a caring, devoted mama. You got your babies to the beach and back home again like a pro, and even though it wasn't easy, you were making memories with them.

That's what it's all about, Mama.

Your children are still at that stage of life where they want YOU and you alone.

I will admit: there was a twinge of sadness inside of me when I was watching you yesterday. Not sad for you; sad for me.

Those precious, sweet, crazy "baby-days" are over for me now. In fact, not one of my "babies" was even with me yesterday, frolicking on the miles and miles of sandy shore and delighting in the wonder that is a perfect July day. When I make an appeal to go places like the beach or beyond, I have to compete with so many other interests my growing children are developing. All of them good, true -- but still demanding of my children's attention, whether they be work commitments, friendship obligations, other hobbies and interests they have developed, or their ever-changing pastimes.

Most of all, I compete with a lessening attachment they have with me, their mom. I am not "everything" to them anymore.

As I watched you with your sweet babies, realizing how difficult this stage of life is for mamas like you, I felt a twinge of sadness come over me. Your children are still at that stage of life where they want YOU and you alone. You have the monopoly on their attention and love. And it is such a fleeting stage of life: when it is over, it's over.

I am not writing to tell you, dear Mama, any words of advice: I just want to thank you for the memories you brought back to me. I was there once, too.

I once had a baby boy with little chubby legs trailing behind my skirts, calling out my name. He used to twirl a strand of my hair for comfort; although sometimes it was an inconvenience, I now miss those sticky, little baby fingers running through my hair. And I once had three little princesses with the most precious voices that called me "Mommy" and reached their soft little hands up to me and often, begging me to hold them close.

I use to get slobbery, wet kisses. And all this because I once had four Littles that needed from me, like yours need from you, everything: attention, love, care, comfort, protection, discipline and more. And while my children still need me, and still love me deeply, how they need and how they love me has changed. They need and love me in different ways than they did at this precious stage of parenthood. Maybe needing a little more from me in some respects... but certainly needing a little less in others.

My relationship to them has changed. Sometimes I grieve that these days have gone and left me sadly wishing them back.

Dear Mama of Littles, thanks for the memories. It goes by so fast and then it is over. And when I see you at the beach again, I will watch your little family with affection and joy, remembering that I was once there, too.

It might be crazy and overwhelming and exhausting right now, but there is nothing better than being the centre of your little ones' world. I know and I remember.

See you at the beach, dear Mama. I'll be watching.


A Mother of Four

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