The four words are said after five minutes that feel like five hours.
The 2-year-old, the 4-year-old and I are at the 6-year-old's school to pick him up for a field trip. I've told the 2-year-old she can walk if she stays with me, but willpower is often hard to come by, especially when a long, empty hallway stretches out before you.
This is how I find myself sprinting down the hall, giving a cursory nod to a fellow mom as I pass, trying to catch a child who is curiously fast for having such short legs. She has already been warned of the consequence of not staying by my side, so I place her on my hip and walk determinedly back towards the 6-year-old's classroom as she kicks off her shoes and begins to scream in the ear-piercing way only young children can.
By the time we make it out to the parking lot, I am embarrassed and stressed, certain that every adult within the brick walls has me pegged as a terrible parent. This is not the first time my child has lost it in this particular place, and my fight-or-flight reaction rarely calms the situation.
The older two dutifully climb into the minivan and buckle themselves as I pull the car seat straps over reluctant arms. The crying continues, loud and dramatic. As I click the last buckle into place, a car pulls up beside me and a voice calls my name.
I turn to see the same mom I encountered in the hallway. She too has three children, but her youngest is the same age as my oldest. She's leaning across the passenger seat so I can hear her through the open window. I don't have time to answer before she says what's on her mind.
"This doesn't last forever."
There is no judgment in her voice, no reproach; only understanding. She has been there. She gets it. More importantly, she's gotten through it. The toddler tantrums won't last forever, and it's OK that I'm not enjoying this moment.
I breathe for the first time in five minutes.
"Like golden apples set in silver is a word spoken at the right time." Proverbs 25:11
By the time we arrive at our destination, the local bounce house, the 2-year-old and I have both calmed down. The older two run off with friends as soon as we're inside, and I once again find myself chasing the little one -- but this time willingly. She moves from place to place, eager to explore, but always careful to make sure I'm within view.
She climbs into one area, calling, "Mommy! Come!", and I join her inside. We race around the edge, and she tries to keep her footing as I try to bounce her around. Giggles burst from her with each tumble.
I glance around, hoping to catch a glimpse of the boys, but they're nowhere to be found. There's too much to do to be slowed down by a mom and a little sister.
But the little sister is right in front of me, struggling to her feet and giggling madly. I resume my chase as her tiny legs pump hard to get away while simultaneously waiting for me to catch up.
The four words come back to me, and I realize that their truth extends beyond my previous situation. So I determine in my heart that although I won't enjoy every moment, I'll eagerly chase the ones I can.
After all, this doesn't last forever.