I was recently in a sandwich shop, waiting for my order, when Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game” started drifting from the ceiling. I had heard the song before, long before having children, and loved the lyrics. But upon really listening this time — as an exhausted, flustered mother — I was floored by how spot on Joni was in singing about a child growing up. Her repeated verse, “We’re captive on the carousel of time,” brought tears to my eyes as I began to think about how time is really such a sneaky creature.

I’ve reached the point in motherhood, now five years in, where the oft-repeated adage, “The days are long, but the years are short” is really starting to show itself in full color to me, each and every day. When I began this journey, I did not have the faintest clue about how the carousel of time would carry my children and me around and around, up and down, from different emotions and milestones, every second of every single day. And how — just like that — a truly difficult moment could be transformed into a beautiful one, and vice versa.

These past few months, I’ve felt as if the carousel of time has picked up speed and has sent along so many milestones for all three of my kids. I’ve been nearly blinded at times with the emotional turbulence, speed, and intensity of the changes and seasons our carousel has passed through. I can barely catch my breath before the next milestone happens, and at times, I’m hanging on for dear life to stay in each moment, stop the carousel, or will it to move along to the next season.

At kindergarten orientation a few months ago, my firstborn gazed around the school lobby in wonder, taking everything in, exactly like he had the first moment I met him on the night he was born five Julys ago. This was the boy who, at 16 months old, had a health issue that landed him at Children’s Hospital for five days, scaring his parents beyond belief. Thankfully, he overcame this and is perfectly healthy today. This same boy, who sobbed when I brought him to nursery school as a newly minted 3-year-old, hopped right up the big steps of the bus on the first day of kindergarten, turned around with one of the biggest grins I’ve ever seen, and continued on to find his seat. And only a few months into being 5, he lost his two bottom teeth in one week, flabbergasting one completely unprepared Tooth Fairy.

Some days the whining, wrestling, snack requests, and sibling squabbles seem endless. Yet this boy often catches me off guard throughout the day to say “I love you” when I’m least expecting it, and he watches out for his two little brothers like a protective lion.

My middle son, age 3, is the most spirited one. He adores his brothers with all of his heart, he is my shadow, and he tests me the most. Just as he loves to press all the buttons in an elevator, he knows how to press all my buttons with whining, tantrums, and stubbornness. He misses his older brother dearly when they are separated by school, and we both watch the clock to see when the bus will be pulling up to our driveway. But this boy has started to show major independence, too; he makes his own friends at the library and playground, and he brings his books up to the library desk to check them out on his own when I stay in the play area with his baby brother. When I bring him to school, he nearly runs through the door and barely looks back to give me a kiss goodbye, and he constantly talks about how much he loves his class, singing the songs and reciting the poems he heard that day.

Yet, he still requires that I lay with him at night so he can fall asleep. Some nights, that’s at least an hour after we’re done reading, and I nearly fall asleep next to him even though I have a long to-do list to tackle after the kids go to bed. But in particularly sweet moments, he intertwines his fingers with mine and asks me to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or “Tale as Old as Time.” So I look up the lyrics and sing to him, terribly off-key, thinking I could lay there next to him forever as he falls asleep.

And my baby is just about to turn 1 — how can that be? I truly believe the first year goes by so much more quickly with each child. This little guy, who’s been schlepped around town his whole life to all of his brothers’ activities, is now cruising everywhere. The baby I stopped breastfeeding at 4 months due to a host of issues is now babbling up a storm and counts avocado toast and pot roast as his favorite foods, though he still wakes up most nights. He is the smallest of my three kids but is my best eater and has quite a vivacious and sweet personality to boot, marking his spot in our family and in the world. He is the light of all of our lives, and the perfect little pumpkin.

I know that the days when I feel like I am going to combust from the frustration of parenting strong-willed little guys will quickly pass by as we ride this carousel of time. That before I know it, we will be in the next season, and with that will come a new host of joys and challenges.

And as we begin this new year, I am so grateful to be on this carousel of time and to know how very special it is. It is not to be taken for granted. 

So, if you’re someone who hears about how long the days are and how short the years are, yet you don’t quite feel it yourself, please know that this carousel of time is a beautiful thing. 

I’m sending a big kudos to all you amazing mamas out there, and I wish you all the joy in the world as we embark upon this new year!


Kate Cotter
Kate came to New England for college a decade and a half ago, and fell in love with all things Boston. She is the mom of two beautiful baby boys, ages 2.5 & 10 months, and loves watching them explore this lovely area of the country, experiencing Boston through their eyes. Heart-filling: spending time with my family, spontaneous hugs, kisses and “I love you Mommy” from my boys, reading great books, fall in New England, the Adirondacks, golden retriever puppies (don’t have any yet!), coffee, champagne, and serendipity. Can do without: Boston traffic, inconsiderateness, never-ending winters and stir-craziness.