Thursday, April 4, 2013

Enjoy *almost* every moment, and other better-than-average parenting advice you never actually get from strangers

I've been at this parenting thing for enough years now that I consider myself a hardened veteran.  I've earned some stripes.  I have yet to survive the teenage years, but it's-a-coming.

Incidentally, I'm glad that my oldest child is my mellowest child, he's always broken me in easy when it comes to this kind of stuff.

In the last few days, I've seen a few posts floating around the internet by exhausted parents who get frustrated endlessly with people who tell them to enjoy it all, that time flies, that one day you'll miss this.

I get it. I do.

I understand the frustration they express.  I've been there, dragging a fit throwing boneless dead weight toddler with one arm, bouncing a screaming baby on my hip, frazzled and tired, wondering why in god's name anyone would ever suggest in a million years that I would someday miss this.

They're out of their ever-loving minds.

I've rolled my eyes at older moms who tried to give me advice about my colicky infant.  I've mouthed bad words under my breath at random strangers who threw nuggets of unsolicited advice at me.

I've been covered in vomit, taking apart a carseat in a parking lot too many times to count. I've carried bleeding kids into the emergency room.  I've walked the halls in surgery waiting rooms.  I've been so tired from lack of sleep that I could literally have fallen asleep in less than ten seconds standing up if I was ever able to let my guard down. My nipples have cracked and bled. I've cried and cried and cried at 3am when my pump broke. I've had to literally sit on my own child to stop them from hurting the others. I've been there.

I've had to deal with some really terrible things as a mother.  If you think babies are hard, give it a few years.  I can tell you this, it doesn't get easier as they get older.

Sometimes parenting sucks.  Sometimes it's even worse than that. Sometimes it is terrifying and strange and weird and not anything like you thought it would be. Sometimes you wonder if you're screwing your kids up, if you really aren't cut out for this.  Sometimes you even wonder what life might be like if you weren't responsible for these little people.  As society expects, you then kick yourself for even allowing such a thought to invade your mind.

Then, often at the worst possible moment, you have someone tell you that you're supposed to be enjoying this.

Here's the thing, tired and frustrated, angry and offended parents of the world...

...and I mean this.....

...you are supposed to be enjoying it.

You are.


These people, the ones that say things like that, they know.

I said something like that to a man in a park just last week.  He was complaining about his energetic two year old, how much work he is, how tiring it all is.   I chatted with him as my youngest and his oldest dug in the sand together.  When it was time to leave, I gathered my four, all older than his by a few years at least, and I told him something like this:

I remember chasing a two year old. There's no rest for the weary. It sucks. As hard as it is, though, it's the only time in your life that you will get a chance to see anyone see everything for the first time. Everything is new. Everything is awesome. It's hard work and it's exhausting, but it's completely worth it.  Enjoy it. It only happens once. I miss it.

He smiled and looked at all of my kids.  I could see him tallying them up in his head, then he told me that he was going to trust that I knew what I was talking about.

Those people who say these things, the people like me...we know.

We're not telling you that every single second of parenthood is fun, because no one in their right mind would ever think that let alone want someone deep in the trenches to imagine it's possible.

We're not telling you that you are supposed to be constantly grateful for the kid who pees in your bed every weekend.

We're not telling you that parenthood is all unicorns and rainbows.

We're not telling you not to complain about how hard it is.

We're not telling you not to be frustrated.

We're not even telling you to understand what we are saying to you.

We're just asking you to trust us.

We're telling you that someday, as hard as it is to believe right now, you WILL miss this.

As parents, I firmly believe that we develop a coping mechanism I like to refer to as parental amnesia.  With time, most of us eventually will forget or at least minimize the sleepless nights and all the times we were barfed on.  We'll force the memories of colicky infants and fit throwing toddlers and potty training from our minds, even if that's all it seems like parenting can be when you're in the thick of it.

You're going to have to trust me on this, just like the dad at the park did.

As our children get older, we would give anything back for another shot at those early days.

The smell of a newborn's head when they are curled up in a ball, sleeping on your chest.

The softness of their skin, the deliciousness of the rolls of a filled-out chubby baby.

The tentative first steps, that moment that they finally let go.

The first time they say mama or dada, and you call everyone you know.  

The first time they smile back at you and your heart almost explodes.

The first time they make a friend, and you get to witness them developing a relationship. 

The first day of preschool, with the nicest clothes and a room full of teary moms who get it.

The very first dance class, with a tiny little one staring at a huge mirror.

The first tball game, the one where no one can catch and they all chase the balls like cats.

The first time they have to give a presentation at school, 
and they catch your eye across the room and light up.

The first time you see them ride a bike with no training wheels.

The first time they run across a soccer field or enter a wrestling tournament.

The first time they perform in a music concert or talent show.

The first time they stick up for a friend in need. 

I could go on and on and on, but these are the times the people like me are talking about.  Eventually, the things about parenthood that are hard will fade in your memories, and you'll be left wishing for all the rest of it back.

Don't be so caught up in everything else that you miss that good stuff. Don't be so overwhelmed and distracted that you don't see something. Don't be so offended that someone is giving you advice that you refuse to understand there is truth to it.

Trust us, the veteran parents, when we tell you that you'll miss this.

We know because we miss it.

When I left the park last week, I glanced back for one more look at the little boy with the golden curls.

Did I miss that?  Do I miss that?

You're damn right I do.

8 comments:

  1. This is a fantastic post! My son is only 16 months old, and I can already relate to some of this. He's already half my height, and he looks like a little boy. When I look back at those pictures from the very first days-- the days when I was so tired I couldn't see straight-- I want to go back and stop time for a spell when he still fit on my chest in a perfect little ball of baby.

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  2. That was very well said, I cried... I miss all that. Mine are storming into the tween/teen years and I just want my squishy little 3 yo's back who talked funny and were so sweet...

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  3. Girl,you have no idea what this does to me right now. I'm watching my three year old and thinking about the fact we're getting ready to start all this over again. I am relishing where we are right now, even though it most definitely is NOT rainbows and sunshine all day, every day. Mucho love to you <3

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  4. With my son being 25 and my hoping that grandchildren will be in my future in the next decade (LOTS AND LOTS OF THEM I HOPE) how you made me smile. And I can tell, you as stressed as I was much of the time being a single mom, I DID enjoy it, he's 25 and I'm STILL enjoying it, for they are forever growing and learning (if they are doing it right...)and I'm looking forward to enjoying it again, when there are more little ones around.

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  5. OMG!! I just teared up and couldn't read any more!! I'm so with you; I know I will miss all the cute pouting and tearful "I'm NOT your friend any more!!" some day!! It's not rainbows and unicorns but no one ever said that it would be!!

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  6. So. Frickin. Good.

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  7. Damn you! Simon's first birthday is today (er, technically now it's after midnight, so yesterday), and I'm having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that the newborn whose heart rate wouldn't calm down enough to let me have the water birth I wanted is now saying words and taking steps. I've dealt with three birthdays in the past month and a half, and it's so bittersweet. I definitely miss a lot of things already. And I strongly agree about parental amnesia- it's the same thing that makes us feel like natural childbirth and poor latches couldn't have actually been as painful as we vaguely recall. :)

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  8. Way to make me bawl. I wish I had more people had told me that. Only at the time, I don't think I would have listened. It's the nature of parenting. To remember fondly and forget the challenges that made us so frazzled.

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