“Enjoy every minute, they don’t stay little forever,” “I know it’s hard but they grow up fast, enjoy it,” “You think it’s hard now? Just wait til they are older, cherish these days they are easy by comparison.” I don’t know how often I’ve heard those words as a mum in almost 7 years now, but every single time I both giggle and mentally scream a little when I hear them. They are absolutely true, kids do grow up fast. Well sort of… In what is also possibly the most difficult, funny, sweet and mind numbing way at times. I like to tell friends parenting is the fastest and slowest experience of your life. Stuff is constantly changing but sometimes at what feels like a snails pace.
I was chatting with a friend the other day about our kids (mine a 6 1/2 year old struggling with year 1 and an almost 3 year old and her two slightly older) and she made this comment that was just riddled with mummy guilt “I KNOW I should be cherishing this last few months before he goes off to school because it’s the last time we will really be together, just US…” Her voice was filled with guilt because a moment before we had been saying just how damned hard it can be to “cherish every moment” when sometimes those moments seem unendingly long. When you’ve been asked for the 30th time in an hour to “Just watch me do this”, “Look, Mum!”, or hear from a little mouth how “You never spend time with me!” after having JUST spent 2 hours one on one with that exact child. It’s like you are trying to fill up a bottomless cup, that no matter how fast you pour in time and attention seems the next moment to have forgotten all of that in the moment of “Watch me NOW’s!!”
So I giggle/sigh when I hear those phrases of “cherish every moment” because from the other side, when your kid is 2, 4, 8, 16, 30 etc, absolutely you think “Oh my god they grew up so fast, I wish I could just go back and enjoy that time again.” But in the moment those times truly feel endlessly long. When you are up at night for the 4th time with your 4 month old and more than anything want to cherish your bed, cherish your sleep and maybe just maybe you DON’T want to “cherish the moment” quite so much. Or when your kid is being oh so difficult or honestly just being a kid with all their stubborn tenacious energy. When you are knee deep in trying to teach a 5 or 6 year old how to read and feel like if you have to say one more time “stretch out the sounds” that your head may well just explode like a soda bottle shaken too hard. When you feel like you could possibly double as the entertainment committee on a cruise ship as they look at you once again and ask “What are we doing today/now/this very moment?” Sure someday I’ll look back fondly at these moments but right now that added pressure, be it by yourself or those around you, to “cherish it” is frankly just too darned hard.
In those moments quite honestly as a mum there is no “cherishing every moment” – it’s survival. Not even survival of the fittest just pure, plain survival. Telling someone who’s just surviving to cherish it, is like saying to someone who’s drowning, “Here’s some more water, drink up! I don’t know WHY you don’t enjoy that water, it’s so good, and someday you’ll just WISH you had that water to drink!” Sure, maybe I will. But right now in this moment more water, more “enjoyment” of this moment may in fact actually make my brain explode.
Don’t get me wrong I LOVE my kids, fiercely, and they are hilarious. I love blowing kisses on my two year old’s belly and listening to his hysterical giggles and I love crafting with my 6 year old but that doesn’t mean I have to love every single minute of every single day. And asking me to is asking an awful lot.
So I guess what I’m trying to say to all my fellow mums is it’s ok NOT to cherish every moment, to realise that sometimes motherhood is simply survival. And instead of telling each other “cherish it” say “I get it” and share your own story of that stage. Not the “I’m a better parent stuff”, just the realities of what it was like. That you’ve been there and it’s ok to admit it’s not all worth cherishing frankly. The moment I got a ticket for rushing to drop off my daughter at school to avoid a angry note from school about being tardy again. When I’d spent 20 minutes of time (the time that we had allotted so we wouldn’t be late) cleaning up poop from my 2 year old who told me AS we got in the car that he had to go…. is NOT a moment I will ever cherish. I just don’t have it in me. I will laugh at it as I tell the story of potty training and I cried more than a few tears when I got that nice big ticket. But I’ll never cherish that. Because sometimes parenting is HARD, laughably so, and all you can do is survive each day. We shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Until sometime, you look back and utter those oh so dangerous words yourself.