Sitting on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor last night, as the girls played with big plastic colanders in the bathtub, I was hit with wave after wave of reality, its force as jarring as unexpected splashes of cool water. I am simply dizzied by the contradictory nature of the passage of time as a parent. How can it move so mercilessly fast and yet allow us these pockets of time in which moments last for hours, and the spirit of those moments nestles deep within to sustain us as time marches forward.

Their knobby knees were poking out of the water and their shiny wet hair clung to their necks and extended well beyond their shoulders, so long and unbaby-like. They flipped around, the water sloshing and their bodies slipping on the slick porcelain tub. I lurched to catch them, but their sinewy arms shot out, and they handily caught and righted themselves before I had a chance. I felt at once empty and proud.

I don’t mean to dwell on how fleeting this stage is, and in a way, I suppose I am grateful that I struggle so to accept it. I just never knew how old three really was (or 18 months for that matter), I didn’t understand how early the process of growing up began. No one told me how quickly life would go after I became a mom – wrinkles and dimples, big girl shoes and comfortable flats, top 40 music and home shows. Sometimes I just wish I could take three steps back, but then I look at all I am gaining: confidence, theirs and mine; wisdom, again, theirs and mine; and of course the deepening of love, for Sean, our girls and myself.

All that said, I still wonder how can Briar look so tiny one moment and so impossibly grown up the next? How did Avery shed all of her babyness save her belly without my noticing? How did my profile go from bumpish to zip codeish? And how did I ever stumble upon a guy like Sean who understands my every emotional hiccup and makes spilling 36 ounces of much needed coffee all over his office seem like an endearing thing?