454322839I’ve got a mess of kids over the age of five and if there is one thing I could do, I wish I could go back and tell myself not to worry so much. To just chill out a bit, enjoy my kids and whatever mess they were making at the time, realize that every time they cried or had a weird rash or ate a penny they found on the floor or stuck something up their nose or had some mystery bruise or refused to eat anything but Goldfish crackers for a week that they would be fine. Totally fine. More than fine.

Well, for now. Because as we all know, little kids little problems and big kids, big problems, and no one has called me from jail. Yet.

I wasn’t what I would call a super worrisome mom. I didn’t lose sleep that many nights over what my kids were or weren’t doing, but I did spend numerous hours pouring over parenting books and later – doing web searches for whatever worrying behavior my kids were exhibiting at the time. One thing that I needed to be told when I was a young mom, and this is probably one of the only real parenting truths I know, and it is something that NONE of the parenting books tell you is that:

Being a parent is the fucking scariest thing on earth, but no matter how scary it can be, your kids will be fine.

I’m not talking about kids with severe medical problems, or kids who are in hospital, because as a parent who has never experienced that I really have NO idea what that is like. But for the rest of you? Your kids will be fine. It will all be fine.

Don’t get me wrong. I spent many a night fretting over kids with fevers and kids refusing to nap and kids not eating and kids with amazingly creepy looking diapers. I asked other moms and my own mom tons of questions trying to discern what was NORMAL and what was an actual real parenting problem. Because that’s the thing with parenting, we have so many pretend parenting problems when it comes down to it, but no parent every realizes at the time that that’s what they are. It all seems amazingly life or death when it’s three in the morning and your toddler wakes up sobbing inconsolebly because they are cutting a tooth.

I just want you to remember this, that your kid will be fine.

Another universal truth of parenting is this, besides it being the fucking scariest thing on earth, it really all does go by so fast.

I wish I had worried less and enjoyed it more.

And I did enjoy it, of course I did, I enjoyed the sticky popsicle kisses on a sweltering summer day and the smell of my babies when they were fresh from a nap, all drowsy and warm and nuzzling into my neck and hearing their cries of joy on Christmas morning and the first times they saw giraffes and the way they clung to me when we went into the pool, promising to never let them go when I sunk us in past our shoulders.

I enjoyed the endless rereading of Goodnight, Moon and falling asleep with someone on my chest and the very first bites of ice cream, their fists grabbing the spoon and their little bodies bouncing in the high chair and waltzing them around my living room when it was dark and quiet, watching their eyelids close as I attempted a lullaby in a hushed voice.

But I do wish I had really enjoyed it more, and worried a lot less.

Because at the end of it, when now my life consists of choir practices and driving lessons and video games and dog eared copies of George Orwell and hoodies thrown across chairs I miss it. Not that parenting older kids isn’t fun too, but I miss the babies. I miss the toddlers. I miss all the piles of pretend parenting problems because they are a lot cozier than worrying about birth control and college applications and texting and driving.

All the problems I had when my kids were little now seem like pretend parenting problems.  They furrowed my brow and wrung my hands and made me miss the things I wish I could now go back and enjoy more. It all goes by so amazingly, amazingly fast.

(Image: getty images)