If You Tell Me To “Cherish Every Moment One. More. Time.
I am four years and eleven months into the parenting gig.
This is, in my opinion, more than enough time for the rose-colored mom-glasses that I initially wore to be broken and added to the pile in my house of other things my kids have broken.My three children are spaced closely enough that the hubs and I regularly ask one another, “What were we thinking?” in desperation (and we’re only half-kidding.) We talk a lot about being in survival mode. While on the phone with an actual adult, it’s not entirely unusual for me to interrupt myself mid-sentence to ask a child questions like, “Wait, he pooped where?” Just a few minutes ago I had to instruct one of my kids to stop licking the wall. Jokes about having child #4 are just. not. funny. I wash urine-soaked bedsheets almost daily. And my baby just woke up too early from his nap.
This is where I live. This is where all young moms live. It is hard, desperate work.
And this is why I find it so exasperatingly ironic that if there is one recurring phrase young moms hear possibly even more frequently than “Moooom, come wipe!” it is this: “Just enjoy every moment, honey, it goes so fast.” Or it’s twin sentiment: “One day you’re going to wish they were little again.” And of course, my personal favourite: “The days are long, but the years are short.”
Ummmm…say what?!? My kid just blew-out his diaper in the carseat. Sitting through an entire church service is a thing of the past. I can’t remember what it’s like to have more than 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep. And yet you greet me with, “Oh honey, I so wish I could have these days back again.”
What are you, NUTS?!
Because what else could you possibly tell an overwhelmed mom whose baby just chunk-puked all over her? Honestly, I find this sentiment completely bewildering. I see you over there in your pristine outfit, well-restedand talking about that actual book you finished reading, wearing DANGLY earrings without fear of them being ripped from your earlobes. So free. So present. Either you are forgetful or you. are. lying. Mommas surrounded by little ones demand an explanation!
Yes, the little humans are adorable and squishy at this moment, but you obviously were not privy to the fit pitched because her three-quarter pants don’t reach the ankles. And OHMYWORD please do not make me read “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” one more time! My children, God bless ‘em, can drive me to drastic extremes of the emotional continuum as I swing between “I love you so much, I could die!” and “Go to bed, I do not want to see your face again for the next twelve hours!” The days are long and the nights are long and the years are long and everything just seems so dang long! Can I get a witness?!
So please, dear woman with older children, consider that this is my context. To borrow the words of Rachel Jankovic, “cherish every moment” sounds like “a tender reminiscence from someone who had children so long ago that she only remembers the sweet parts.” Forgive me for my glazed-over expression and forced tone when I robotically reply, “Yes. Goes fast.” Cos honestly, I don’t believe you. I just can’t see that the post-toddler-stage me will look back to these seemingly never-ending days of potty training and raisins-shoved-up-nostrils and long for a do-over.
And yet. And yet.
When the chaos has calmed for a moment, I take a deep breath. I see a little more clearly. I hear the sweet little voices call me “Mama.” I listen to them laugh and sing along with The Donut Man. I watch the chubby baby legs wobble as they learn how to walk. I smell the freshly washed hair. I feel the little arms around my neck, the small hands in mine, the cuddles. I see all the duplo blocks and the plastic food – inanimate reminders of all my happy little play-ers. And in these moments, I know that this is what I will miss. The sweet moments that little people fill our lives with.
I won’t miss the long, hard, exhausting, chaos-filled days. And that’s ok.
And just like I find myself telling my kids things that I thought I never would (“Because I said so!”), instinctively I know that one day I will also catch myself saying to some frazzled young mom, “Cherish every moment, honey, it all goes by so fast.” But I hope I recognize her doubtful facial expression and add some practical encouragement.
Honey, it goes by so fast. In just a few years you will look back and wonder where all that time went, what happened to that stage you thought would never end. And you will forget most of the frustrations, the hard moments, the bedtime and mealtime battles, the constant noise, the sacrifice. And you will reminisce about all that makes these little humans so precious: their innocence, their freshness, their sweetness and simplicity. And you’ll miss it. Because it will be over. You will survive this.
That’s what I want older-mom-me to say to young moms. Because that’s what young-mom-me desperately needs to hear right now.
PS: the examples given in this article may or may not have been inspired by real-life events with my actual children.
Allison is an America-born, South Africa-raised, Asia-residing dreamer. Wife to Tommie, mama to three littles, follower of Jesus, blogger at www.thislifeintransit.com, designer at www.eyepopdesigns.etsy.com, lover of life!