Speed up, slow down

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Mummy Musings is a fortnightly column where Elisabeth Lee navigates the ups and downs of bringing up her daughter.

When it comes to raising kids, they say the days are long but the years are short. To be honest, when I first had A everything felt like it was taking forever. I had a seriously bad case of wanting to keep up with the rest of the world.

First, I wished she would hurry up and learn to sit. I even bought a special Bumbo seat to prop her up in before she was ready. When she finally learned to sit independently – cloth diapers are useful for this – it felt like a special kind of freedom for me. I could cook dinner again – with both hands!

But as soon as she learned to sit, I began wishing she would crawl. That way, she could get the toys she wanted without having to cry for attention and get someone to help. And soon enough, she did. Then I wanted her to stand. Then walk. Then talk.

And all this while, I was pushing her to learn, learn, learn. I read her books during bath time – when she was just a tiny, slippery pink thing, more fish than infant. I pointed out everything to her when we were walking around the neighbourhood; I read her menus, the back of the cereal box, everything I could. We counted everything countable, and even took a stab at the uncountable.

Writing it out now, it all sounds exhausting. I was exhausted. I wish someone had set me down and told me that it would all happen, in its own time, when she was good and ready. I wish I had been able to hear that, should someone have said it.

Now she’s three going on 13, and changing so fast. Last week she couldn’t manage a simple 30-piece puzzle – this week, she’s begging me for bigger puzzles. Every trip to the playground brings a surprise – a new achievement, a higher rung on a ladder, a taller slide. Each day when I pick her up from daycare, she has a new piece of art to show off. Her stick figures have grown delicate, if strange, features – eyes, hair, arms and legs. Yesterday, her portrait of mummy sported rosy cheeks, eyebrows, and even a new hairstyle.

She wants to speed up and I want her to slow down. Nearly every sentence she says starts with “when I grow up” or some version of it. “When I’m 60… no, when I’m a hundred years old,” she said the other day. “I will buy a red car and drive it all around.” I bet she will.

In some ways, it’s so beautiful and breathtaking, how she feels like she’s ready for anything the world can throw at her. That we’ve managed (so far) so raise her to feel like the world is her oyster, that anything is possible. 

And yet, at the same time, part of me wants to hold on to her, to tell her to slow down. Just when I’m ready to cherish each moment – her last breastfeeding session, the last time she sleeps with me, the last time she needs to hold my hand as she climbs the stairs – she’s already looking ahead to the next peak she can conquer.

So, savour your long days, if you can. And enjoy the ride.


Elisabeth Lee is proof that it is never too late to consider a second, third or even fourth career, having come to both motherhood and writing late in life. She occasionally freelances and can be reached at

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