Here we are, with the end of another school year staring us in the bella faccia. Yesterday as we drove my eldest to orientation at the elementary school he will attend next fall, I thought of all of those sweet old ladies in the grocery store. “Make sure you enjoy every minute of it. It goes by so fast!” I’ve heard it a quadrillion times. And to be honest, my response has often been silent irritation at their insistence that I must enjoy every.flipping.minute of parenting my three little ones. Surviving on three hours of sleep and living in a uniform of yoga pants and spit-up stained t-shirts is not exactly my idea of enjoyment. While I deeply treasure my children, and I’m thankful to spend so much time with them, parenting them is often really hard work.

In a matter of days, my first born child will graduate from kindergarten and transition out of our beloved church preschool where he has been a student since the age of two. It is a precious little school, committed to the spiritual nurture and overall well-being of the children who roam its halls, and I believe firmly that my son will always carry with him fond memories of his time there. In that school, he spent hours playing with friends, learning about God’s creation, eating snacks, building block towers, and listening to books. He played in the sandbox a thousand times, explored every nook and cranny of the outdoor classroom, and was mesmerized by bubbles as only a preschooler can be. In kindergarten he learned phonics and math, participated in his first science fair, and lost his first tooth.

My son’s preschool years, and his time in kindergarten, has been so sweet, and so fleeting. It’s been so sweeting. My heart could just burst because it’s gone…which brings me back to the sweet old ladies.

I’ve always been the mom who did all of her grocery shopping with three wee ones in tow – two kids buckled into the unwieldy car shaped cart, and a baby strapped to my torso. I’m certain that I often looked crazed and absurd trying to manage it all in the grocery store, and I think that most of the time those sweet women were just trying to encourage me. I was a newbie mom, in the thick of the earliest years of motherhood. Maybe what they wanted to say was something like, “I know things seem crazy right now, and you’re hanging by a thread. But you’ll miss this one day…and it won’t be too long from now.”

Today I usually visit the grocery store while my six-year-old and four-year-old are in school, leaving just Baby Girl and I time to do our shopping at a casual pace. On the days when I do bring my boys to the market, they walk with me, often helping along the way. Rarely am I stopped anymore by one of those sweet old ladies, urging me to enjoy the moment. Because that moment – full of babies and toddlers, sleepless night, dirty diapers, and 24/7 yoga pants – is already past us.

I can’t believe we’ve already cleared that frantic stage. It really did happen so fast.

I’m thankful for this new step of the journey – filled with first grade orientations, baseball games, and richer conversations with my children. It’s exciting, and less physically exhausting. Most days I actually wear real pants and my hair is a lot cleaner than it was two years ago.

But as the end of this school year approaches, I can’t help but look back with nostalgia, and consider how sweeting it’s all been. And the next time one of those sweet ladies stops me in the grocery store to remind me to enjoy the time, I’m going to sincerely thank her, and tell her that she’s right.