Last week, I posted something on Facebook about how my 3-year-old hadn’t stopped talking all day. I wasn’t complaining– well, not really.
Many of my Facebook friends have children, some with children around my daughter’s age, so I guess I was just looking for a little solidarity. It was one of those “I’m due for a status update” kinda posts that I didn’t give much thought to before posting. The comments were mostly “ooh, girl, I feel ya” type commiserating where everyone traded war stories about their own overly chatty spawn. And, then, there it was… a comment from a business colleague who has grown children, admonishing me and the other commenters that we should “really try to enjoy these moments, because there will come a time when they’re grown and won’t even answer your phone calls”.
*Groan* There it is. Someone who is years removed from the challenges of daily life with a 3 year old reminding me to ENJOY EVERY MOMENT.
My daughter is the light of my life. I adore her. I’m intrigued by her. She fills me with pride and wonder and joy and all those squishy, sparkly, wonderful feelings I never expected to feel. But, sometimes, I gotta admit… I. Am. Not Enjoying. It.
Picture it: It’s 7:00 p.m., I’ve just gotten home from a 10 hour day at work. I’m still in my work clothes, I’ve had to pee since 4:00 p.m. and for no particular reason, I still haven’t managed to make it to the bathroom, and I’m just now starting dinner. The dog is whining to go outside, even though I’ve already let him in and out 3 times since I walked in the door. And it begins. “Mommy. Mommy mommy mom mommmmaaaaa I need a Bandaid. A Paw Patrol Bandadid. I want an applesauce. Mommy apple sauce. Apple sauceeeeeeeeeeeeee. Paw Patrol apple sauce Bandaid sauce. Mommy look. I have a boo boo (no she doesn’t)… Mommy my doggie, where’s pink doggie? I no want pagetti (spaghetti). Pagetti is yuck mommy. I want a Pop-Tart. Mommy Bandaid. BAND AID. MOMMY. I wanna watch Paw Patrol McStuffins. MOMMMMMMMMYYYYYYY!!!”. It’s not that I’m ignoring her. I’m listening as intently as I can and trying to simultaneously boil the spaghetti, sautee the chicken and find the goddamn box of Bandaids my husband put in the wrong place the last time she needed a Bandaid (like, 8 minutes ago), and trying not to escape to the bathroom just for a moment of silence.
So, I’m supposed to stop, take a deep breath and revel in this moment? Cause I can’t. I’m not enjoying this moment… I’m enduring it. I’m exhausted. It doesn’t mean I’m not happy being a mom. It just means that for this moment, I want to fast forward, just a tiny bit, maybe an hour or so… maybe to bath time? Bath time is fun. We always fill the tub up all the way with plenty of bubbles. Our 12 year old cat always comes in during bath time, and my daughter squeals with delight. Seriously, every time, like it’s the first time ever. Our cat, Maynard (who she’s renamed Meathead) saunters over to the edge of the tub every night, and we place a big pile of bubbles on his head. My daughter cracks up, Meathead looks proud, and I still find this genuinely funny. It’s predictable, it’s routine, but I enjoy it immensely. And then, we get out of the tub and sometimes she throws an epic tantrum if I’ve dared to grab the wrong pair of Elsa pajamas, and I’m back to wanting to fast forward… just a few minutes, until we are snuggled in her bed and my husband sits on the floor and reads us one or two (or seven) books as she drifts off into the most angelic sleep.
Parenting is just full of ups and downs and in-the-middles. Many moments are simply wonderful. Some are god awful. Most, however, are just plain average. And that is perfectly ok.
Life is a mixed bag. Just because you’re a parent– or more specifically, a mom– doesn’t mean you are required to bask in the magic of every single nanosecond of every single day.
Will I feel guilty some day in the future when she thinks I’m embarrassingly uncool and doesn’t need my snuggles anymore that I didn’t enjoy EVERY MOMENT, down to the tantrums and the whiny ultimatums? The truth is, I have no idea. But I do know that the sudden reminder to stop and enjoy every moment of motherhood fills me with guilt. Why do I, as a mom, have to feel guilty about not finding every last interaction with my daughter to be full of magic and wonder? If I suddenly landed my dream job and had a bad day at work, would anyone reprimand me for saying that I couldn’t wait for the weekend? Probably not. If I complained that I didn’t enjoy some mundane task at work, like filling out my expense report, would anyone suggest that I should stop and savor the moment because someday I’ll be retired and bored? No.
I am acutely aware that time is passing. I can’t believe that I already have a preschooler. It seems like 18 minutes ago that I was holding a tiny little baby. Ah, she was such a sweet little baby. It was so much easier then… I wish I could have held on to those moments a little longer. I wish I could remember what her head smelled like. Why didn’t I stop and commit that exact scent to memory? I wish I could remember what it felt like to hold her at 6 weeks, 6 months… Why didn’t I stop and will my brain to burn that sensation to my memory forever? Gah. God, I guess I squandered those precious moments.
Except that I didn’t.
I did what I am doing now. I enjoyed the bulk of it– the sweet little coos, the sight of that little infant falling asleep on my chest, the first tooth, the first time she laughed, the first time she said “Dada”, the amazingly sloppy messes she made whilst mastering putting mashed sweet potatoes in her mouth. And, I’ve glossed over the rest– the colic, the 4 month sleep regression, the clogged ducts and the PPD, the late night frantic trip to the ER when she was 5 weeks old, the almost painful exhaustion those first few weeks…. it all feels like such a distant memory.
Today, I had a meeting in a medical building. I got into the elevator and there was a couple there, holding what looked to be a one to two week old baby. He was so tiny, so content, asleep on his mom’s shoulder. The mom had that look of sheer exhaustion and fatigue that is a requisite part of the new mom uniform. I felt this sudden rush of nostalgia and even deeper pang of jealousy. We exchanged polite smiles and I told them their baby was beautiful. But, part of me wanted to beg her to stop and enjoy these moments because it won’t be long before that little sweet angel is demanding Paw Patrol Bandaid Apple Sauces at the top of his lungs. But I didn’t. Why? Because no matter how much someone tells you that you’ll miss these days, you can’t appreciate it until you do.
When I encounter someone saying they’re having a miserable pregnancy or complaining about colic or reflux or sleeplessness, I remind myself that it’s part of the package deal to have these moments you don’t enjoy. Just because I’m feeling nostalgic doesn’t make their struggle any less real.
Someone once told me that the easiest phase of parenting is the one you’ve just come out of, and I can’t imagine anything truer. Although we are in the thick of Threenagerdom right now, I am certain that there will come a time when we have a sassy five year old or a broody twelve year old on our hands and we’ll long for the days when potty training and tantrums over pajamas were the biggest of our concerns. And some day, when my daughter is away at college, or moved to another city to start her life as an adult, I know I’ll yearn for these days. But, until then, I have to remind myself that it’s okay to not enjoy every minute.
And, when an older, wiser person in my life admonishes me for squandering these cherished moments of tantrums and potty accidents and Bandaids stuck to my carpeting, I have to remember to be a little more forgiving and realize that they were probably just like me at one point, wishing away the less enjoyable moments–even if they don’t remember it.