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Hold on to the precious time with your children because it goes by at warp speed

Tanika Davis’ children, at ages 2, 4 and 4, when she hoped that they would stay young forever.
Tanika Davis’ children, at ages 2, 4 and 4, when she hoped that they would stay young forever. (Photo by Tanika Davis)

After another long day of sitting, staring at screens, the children and I went for an evening walk around our neighborhood. The sun was just starting to set, and as we walked, we all admired the sky’s cotton-candy-hued beauty.

Dreamily, my 8-year-old said, “I love it when the sky is that color. What’s it called? Pinklewerry?”

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Because this is a child who still sometimes says callapitter for caterpillar, I quickly figured out that she meant “periwinkle.” And my heart almost burst from the adorableness.

I hugged her and kissed the top of her little pig-tailed head — my last child, my littlest baby — and silently wished she would accidentally say pinklewerry the entirety of her life.

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“Mom,” she said as she squirmed away from me. “I am trying. [Eye roll]. To exercise.”

I was reminded of this scene the other day when I learned that my middle son was a co-star in a TikTok video, where he danced alongside his cousins and looked confidently into the camera with the kind of swag more likely assigned to the bad boy in an R&B group.

I am not exaggerating when I tell you I watched that 15-second video probably 30 or more times. I was so fascinated by the boy-child in it who resembles my son, but couldn’t possibly be. How is he as tall as my 13-year-old niece, the ringleader of this dance-off? What does he know about snapping on the 2 and the 4? When did his cheekbones sharpen?

His brother, the older twin, wants the top of his hair dyed, Odell Beckham Jr.-style. His gorgeous baby curls that smell like snuggles and mother’s milk. Dyed the way a football player who has 86 tattoos on his body, including some drawn by a man called “Bang Bang.”

How did we get here?

This time, nine years ago (I know because I looked it up in the blog I kept when the kids were small), the future TikTok star could say eight words and Odell-to-be could utter only 14, one of which was boo-ruh meaning toothbrush.

And my baby girl with the penchant for malapropisms wasn’t even born!

How does one go from not existing to having outsized attitude just like that? How did the boys who once loved Skippyjon Jones and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom become so tweenish?

Did it happen while I was at work? When we were sleeping? Is it the hormones in the food? All the screen time? WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?!

I once read a blog post called “The Tail End” that laid out in graphic form the lifespan of a person who lives to be 90. The post contained multiple charts that measured the months, weeks and days of that person’s life. It also measured his life in events or activities, such as how many visits to the beach he can take or books he could find time to read. The numbers were shockingly small, even for a person who lives to be 90.

The most sobering of all in the blog post was a section on important relationships, particularly those with parents.

“It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time,” the blogger wrote. “I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time… You realize that despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in [in your life].”

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The sad reality is that, provided they move out for college, my growing, changing boys already have lived in my house longer than they have left to live in it. My speak-her-mind daughter isn’t far behind.

The blogger ended his post with three takeaways, the final one is: “Quality time matters. If you’re in your last 10% of time with someone you love, keep that fact in the front of your mind when you’re with them and treat that time as what it actually is: precious.”

I’m not at the last 10% with my children, but they’re showing all the signs that we’re headed for it at warp speed.

So before we get to the tail end, I intend to treat each precious day with each of them for what it is — unique, beautiful and pinklewerry, like the setting of the sun on a summer’s night.

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