Part of the Mary Moment Monday series

It was a night that was longer and harder than any I’d had in quite a while, one where I started longing for sunrise at around 3 and dozed in 20 minute intervals. I held my hot baby’s body close to mine and made soft soothing noises, trying to keep the din down so everyone else, especially my overworked husband, could sleep.

When my husband walked by the couch on his way to get ready in the morning, I happened to glance outside my kitchen window, and across the expanse of two rooms, I saw the streaks of pink and the lightening of the sky to a gray-blue.

The day rolled in with a bang of colors, an explosion of cool air and beauty that I couldn’t help but notice. I could barely keep my eyes open and standing up was a chore, but here, visible through my kitchen window, was proof that life could go on and go on with a reason to smile.

With each successive baby, the reality of the long nights and short years of this phase of my motherhood touches me closer to my heart. It seems only a moment ago that I was holding my first baby, wondering what, exactly, I was going to do with her. Now I’m on my third and that first baby is boarding the bus every morning to go to first grade.

I’ve been hearing the phrase “Babies don’t keep!” from more mature moms in my life for many years now, but I’ve finally stopped retorting, “Good thing, too! I can’t take much more!” Maybe I’m finally old enough (and worn down enough?) to appreciate the moments of rocking the current baby’s small body and the downy softness of his hair.

Babies don’t keep, it’s true. They grow taller and begin running off to adventures and scrapes and new friends. They grow smarter and begin reading to themselves. They grow older and acquire their own style and their own taste in everything from music to books to shows.

I can’t help but look to Mary as my children get closer to eye-level in more ways than just height. She surely understands the excitement I feel to finally be able to communicate and be understood by my offspring. She must also, though, see the regrets I feel as I blunder through their growing up. Mary probably never lost her temper or yelled at Jesus, but I think she surely felt the frustrations I feel.

Those babies don’t keep, but neither do the toddlers, or the preschoolers, or the grade schoolers. When they’re teenagers, it will be just as fleeting a time as it is now, though for a whole different reason. Then, when they fly away, I’ll find myself busier than ever with the next level of my vocation.

What can I do to treasure the moments with these people in my life, whether they’re my children or my nieces, whether they’re babies or young adults? How can I step back and let the Holy Spirit speak through my actions and my love for them?

This “Finding Faith in Everyday Life” column originally appeared in The Catholic Times.