Can we just talk about this?
Because I feel like I can’t be the only one who is tired of being told–absurdly–to “cherish every moment.”
This may just be a matter of semantics, but even so…no. Just nopety-nope to this message and the horse it rode in on.
Because I am certain the moment that I spent cleaning the dog’s diarrhea out of my brand new carpet–or any memory that involves my children and vomit– will never be “precious” in my memory.
I am also sure that there is no way for me to “enjoy” any moment when my kids talk back or just generally act like jerks, which even the most lovely of children (and, let’s face it, adults) tend to do from time to time.
I humbly submit that–despite what this well-intentioned inspirational quote wants you to believe–not every moment in life is meant to be enjoyed.
Every moment is meant to be experienced and lived. But not necessarily enjoyed. Not necessarily catalogued as “precious.”
And why the hell would we even want it to be?
Sometimes life is boring. Sometimes life is a total shit show. Sometimes it is sad, terrifying, absurd, embarrassing, mundane or miserable.
And these parts of life are good. They are not “precious” or “enjoyable” but they are good because they are part of the package…part of the “full experience” of life. And without the full experience, well, you haven’t had the full experience. (Should I find a way to say “full experience” again?)
If every moment is joyful, then no moments are joyful. Because without experiencing anger, frustration, fear, sadness, or pain, how can we really experience joy?
And in parenting, the same holds true. If I am not occasionally/sometimes/possibly frequently annoyed or frustrated by my kids and the hard and often mind-numbingly boring work of parenting, then can I really say I’ve had the full experience of parenting?
Can I really feel the joy of the amazing moments if I haven’t endured the not-so-amazing ones?
I would argue no.
But in this parenting landscape, I am so often commanded to CHERISH EVERY MOMENT.
To suck up each wonder-tastic second of being a parent because it defines my entire existence and someday I will be a barren and sad empty-nester with only shattered dreams and memories of what it was like when my home was bustling with activity and schedules and cleats on the floor for me to trip over and American Girl brushes left out that can seriously cut a bitch and I will be WOEFULLY SAD and FULL OF REGRET that I did not soak in the orgasmic joy of having those needle-like bristles sear the bottom of my foot in pain because my children will be grown up and my life will basically be over and there will be no more
implements of torture precious doll hair brushes laying around on my living room floor.
Oh, did I say too much in one stream of consciousness paragraph just then? Oops. (Insert embarrassed face emoji.)
But anyway. We all know this pressure is out there. The pressure to be delightfully blissfully present at every magical instant with your children or possibly be labeled the literal worst parent ever.
If you’re the mother at the park looking at your phone, you’re probably being judged.
If you’re the father on the computer saying no to going outside with your kids to play ball, you’re doing it wrong.
If you’re the harried parent yelling at your kid to STOP WANDERING AROUND THE YARD AND GET IN THE CAR BECAUSE WE’RE ALREADY LATE, you’re obviously not cherishing and embracing your child’s sense of wonder and you are definitely the worst. (And if you’ve seen the harried parent I just described, please stop spying on me. It’s creepy.)
Listen, I get it.
I get the core of what these messages that bombard us daily are trying to tell us: childhood is short. It goes by in a flash. It will be over before you know it, etc, etc.
And this message is 100000% true. I am stunned on a daily basis at how old my kids are. When I see pictures of them from even 2 or 3 years ago, they are totally different people even though I am certain I took that photo, like, five minutes ago.
Yes, it goes way too fast. The time is, indeed, short.
Before I know it, in 2 and a half years that will surely pass faster than I can ever imagine, my son will be graduating high school, and meanwhile I’m still trying to reconcile myself with the fact that he is not ten years old anymore.
The fleeting nature of their childhoods still does not mean every moment is one to be enjoyed, and I am sick of having this message shoved down my throat…as though I should feel guilty when I don’t spend every waking moment staring meaningfully and lovingly at my children.
There have been multiple times when I–GASP!!–scrolled through Facebook on my phone while absently saying, “Mmmmhmmmmm…” while my daughter recounted for me in excruciatingly unnecessary detail the plot of the latest book she was reading.
In moments when my kids bicker incessantly, sniping at each other in a way that makes my blood boil, I yell at them and even tell them to get out of the room I am in. In fact, that just happened as I was writing this. I told them to “Shoo!”
I did not cherish that particular moment in the least. Even though they won’t be young forever. Even though the time is so fleeting and precious.
Somebody call DCF. I am clearly an unfit parent.
Oh wait, no.
I am a human being who feels frustration and boredom and anger and sadness, not a robot only containing joy and moment-cherishing software.
You may be surprised to learn that I do not derive indescribable joy from watching them do the same trick on the tire swing for the 20th time.
People…I have been utterly bored at the elementary school band concert. (I know. I’m a monster.)
Final confession: every moment of my children’s existence does not fill me with contentment and joy. Because I’m a human and this is real life and kids can be maddening and tiresome and frustrating.
But here’s the heart of it: their existence is a wonder to me, even when they are annoying or anger-inducing.
I love those kids so fiercely and completely, even when I’m shooing them out of my face because they’re driving me nuts.
And they know they are fiercely loved, every minute.
Even when I’m looking at my phone.
Even when I’m watching TV.
Even when I’m working or reading or talking to my husband or going out with a friend or writing or ignoring them because I’m doing any of these things.
The messages telling us that we should feel guilty or that we are not doing parenting right unless we are cherishing every moment can shove it, because what they really should be saying is love them every moment (even when they are at their worst).
Here’s the thing…no matter what you do, the time is going to fly.
Whether you spend every second staring at them or not, you are going to turn around one day and find that they are gawky teenagers with braces who are taller than you, have full mustaches, and can do a dead-on ironic Trump impression. (That last bit might be a little specific to me, but you take my point.)
You are going to miss things, no matter what.
They are going to keep growing, no matter what.
These little bits of advice to “enjoy every minute” are just our flawed human way of trying to hang on. To romanticize parenthood in such a way that we might stop it from slipping so quickly through our fingers.
But still, it slips.
The time passes. Childhood passes. Life passes.
Some moments–rare ones–are gorgeous and perfect and some are mediocre at best. Others are genuinely awful. We won’t enjoy and cherish every kind, and that’s okay.
We can only do our best to be present in these moments no matter which variety they are. (We won’t even be able to do that every time, and that’s okay too.)
Someday I will wake up and not have anyone to drive to practice.
There will be no overflowing closets full of clothes, shoes and toys to demand someone clean up this instant.
My living room floor will be devoid of hazardous doll accessories and there will be no one staring zombie-like at a video game screen instead of doing homework or chores.
Yes, this will be sad. But that’s life, and life is sometimes sad.
But the good news is no matter how old my kids get, no matter how quickly their childhoods pass, they will always know that they are and have been fiercely loved every minute.
And so I will have done my job.