On “cherishing every moment” (Alternate title: Yes, I know someday I’ll wake up and there won’t be anyone to take to practice anymore.)

Can we just talk about this?

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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.

But..but…

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.

I don’t.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Of Business Trips, Mom Guilt, and Airplane Bathrooms

I’m writing this on a plane home from a work trip to Phoenix. The guy in front of me has graciously reclined his seat so my computer is tilted at an unnatural angle and I can barely see what I am typing. My seat is located directly next to the bathroom and I swear everyone that goes in there is inexplicably flushing twice.

But I can’t complain too much because the middle seat in my row is empty and I love when that happens. It’s a nice place to put my phone, glasses and water bottle so I don’t have to keep awkwardly reaching under my seat to haul these things in and out of my backpack.

I also can’t complain because my trip was amazing.

I had never been to Arizona and I didn’t expect to love it there (snakes and such) but I did. It had a beauty I had never experienced before and the resort where I stayed for my company’s annual conference was absolutely gorgeous.

(Someone just double flushed again and now she is blowing her nose, in case you were wondering.)

I was also a speaker at the conference and I think I did all right. My initial comments—introducing myself and explaining just why in the hell I had the background to be considered an “expert” in content marketing—were a bit of a disaster. My hands were obviously shaking as I held the mike and my voice was noticeably trembly and high-pitched. As I realized how trembly my voice and hands were, I got even more trembly and high pitched, which was awesome.

It didn’t help that I was the first one to introduce myself, that I actually hate introducing myself in any detail besides my name, and having my boss and a ton of my colleagues in the room watching made the stakes even higher, at least for me.

But as the talk ramped up, I relaxed and got into my zone. The shakiness stopped and, as I watched the audience taking fervent notes as I talked, I became more confident that I was, indeed, an expert (of sorts) with some good information to share with them.

When it was over, the moderator (our Marketing Director) told me she hadn’t realized how much of the presentation she had placed on me but I handled it well, and my boss sent me a text congratulating me on “leading” the panel. I had several members of the audience come seek me out after the presentation and later in the day to let me know how much they enjoyed my talk and even asked a few more questions one on one.

In the end, I was proud of how I did.

Besides my presentation, I had great dinners every night with my colleagues and some awesome clients. I enjoyed the beautiful weather and the camaraderie of our team throughout the course of the conference.

I reveled in the solitude of my hotel room, with a huge king bed just for me and its own balcony looking out over some beautiful scenery of cacti, palm trees, and a pond with a bridge over it. I spent some time reading a book out there, slowly drinking my coffee…which I bought at the coffee shop that served Starbucks coffee and was only about 100 steps away from my room. (Bonus!)

(This just in—the person in front of me with their seat reclined is actually a woman in her 20s wearing a hoodie. I know this because she just went to the bathroom, and, in case you were wondering, she only flushed once. She has now kindly un-reclined her seat and I can see my computer screen clearly now.)

But guys, I didn’t write this blog to tell you about my lovely trip to AZ. (Well, I kind of did but there’s more.)

I wrote this blog mostly to tell you about how, as a mom and wife, I was sometimes guilt-ridden at leaving my family behind. My daughter didn’t help as, on the rare occasion I was able to call home at a decent hour given the three hour time difference and my busy conference schedule, she would say in a mournful voice, “Mommy I miss you sooooooo much.” (Cue knife to the heart)

I knew I was leaving my husband with a packed schedule that included ushering for me at church on Sunday, bringing Emma to her audition for Annie, waiting around for the furnace guy, taking Cooper to the doctor for a shot, and attending a cross country meet and a back to school Open House.

Because he has no flexibility at work, Drew had to take two days off to do all these things.

Then I was asked to stay an extra night in Phoenix following the closing of the conference to attend a “meeting of the minds” with some of our company leaders. I was honored to be invited and felt it was important for me to go.

I knew this was adding even more stress to my family because my husband would have to go in late to get Emma on the bus (after being off for two days) and Cooper would have to skip cross country practice to get her off the bus.

It has been extremely difficult for me to balance my enjoyment of my trip and my guilt at putting this additional stress on my family while I was gone.

I have often though that guilt is a useless emotion because all it does is steal joy, but this is easier said than put into practice, isn’t it?

But to me the statement still rings true, because what has this mom guilt served to do, anyway? In those guilty moments, all that happened was a diminishing of my enjoyment of a really great trip I took without my family.

It has been hard for me to grapple with this—I ENJOYED A TRIP WITHOUT MY FAMILY—and to me it goes back to the balancing act that women seem to face on a daily basis. I say this not to diminish the role that men play in day to day family life, but to point out my personal observation that women more often struggle with the guilt factor.

(Side note: another double flusher and I think I have figured out that most people seem to be flushing before and after they use the toilet. Mystery solved.)

It should be okay for me to go home and tell my family what a great time I had, but I will probably downplay that and instead focus on how much I missed them.

Don’t get me wrong, I did miss them tons and there were so many beautiful things to see that I wished at times they were there with me. But there were also plenty of moments when I was glad to be able to focus on work and enjoying my colleagues and a beautiful place without having to family multi-task.

I wore nicer clothes. I did my makeup full on and didn’t have to rush doing my hair or jump in and out of the shower because Drew was waiting to brush his teeth or hair and our bathroom is possibly the size of a shoebox.

I found the security checkpoint at the airport much less stressful than I usually do because I didn’t have to worry about being THAT FAMILY who holds up other travelers because the kids and all the stuff and the explaining to Emma that it’s ok to walk through the metal detector, because I swear I will be coming through right behind her.

I am enjoying this flight, the quiet and solitude to be able to write this blog uninterrupted. (Except, of course, for the constant stream of bathroom-goers.)

I am enjoying the time to myself and trying very hard to not feel guilty about that. (I am not always succeeding. Obvi.)

Because aren’t women always supposed to put their families first, often at the expense of themselves? I feel this pressure often and struggle with opportunities like this one to focus on me, on my career, and just the sheer joy of having some time to myself.

Time when I don’t have to worry about who’s done their homework, who has or has not brushed their teeth or hair, who is about to miss the bus if they don’t HURRY UP RIGHT NOW, or what activities are on the family calendar and how I am going to balance them with my work schedule.

It was like a vacation just for me. And I deserve to enjoy that.

Ultimately, I think the lesson here for me is that it’s ok to take time for myself guilt-free, even three days of stimulating and inspiring work in a beautiful resort setting with lots of great people and good food…and that I thoroughly enjoyed all these things even without my family.

Even as I write this I feel the guilt dissipating, and I will arrive home happy to see the people I love dearly. Because I did miss them, but it’s ok that I didn’t miss them every minute.

Another important lesson I’ve learned is that tons of people use the bathroom on an airplane and many of them are double-flushers, and generally speaking I’d probably prefer not to sit next to the bathroom again. So there’s that, too.

Time to Rise.

A year ago today I wrote this.

What a difference a year makes.

Since early on in my healing process, I created a mantra: “First the letting go, then the rising up.”

I knew I would have to let go of anger and sadness and hurt and self-pity before I could become the person I was truly meant to be.

At the time I had no idea how long this would take.

Last fall, I felt like I had let go of so much, and it was time to rise. To give myself a daily reminder of this, I decided to get some ink:

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The juxtaposition of these two tattoos is what I love most.

The let go tattoo is softer and more soothing to me. Sometimes, when I feel like I am holding on to something I shouldn’t, I actually blow on my arm, picturing dandelion fluff dancing in the breeze, reminding myself to let it go, just let it float away.

In contrast, the phoenix is bold and fiery, reminding me to bring the badass and become all I was meant to be. Every time I look at it I feel a surge of strength and power.

When I got these tattoos, I felt like I was ready to rise. But that process turned out to be almost as slow as the letting go. I’ve found that I’m often going back and forth between the two. Sometimes I have felt like I am not strong enough to rise, and I have wondered if I ever would be.

But lately…lately I know that I am strong enough. I am on fire and rising from the ashes, my friends.

I have lost 80lbs since January and I feel fantastic.

I went back to the gym in early 2017, and at first I knew that just showing up was enough. I didn’t work as hard as I could; I needed to be easier on myself and take one thing at a time, one workout at a time.

These last few weeks, though, I felt a difference deep down in my gut–the old fire in the belly–and I knew that it was time to get my ass moving and stop jerking around.

I talked to my coach and friend and asked her not to go easy on me, to call me out if I was dogging it. I wanted to start pushing myself again.

It was time to rise.

Today, I’m not as physically strong as I used to be, but I will be soon. I’ve started working so hard again and I know I’ll get there. I’m already increasing my pushups, lifting heavier, moving faster, and generally feeling awesome.

I’ve been more present for my family and friends, even if I’m feeling down in the dumps.

I’m killing it at work in a new role that I love.

I’m funny again (sometimes).

Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments. We all do. But I have finally gotten to that point where I know I am strong and I know what I’ve overcome, and the daily challenges I might face now are nothing compared to that.

Someday, I may have to face even bigger challenges. That is just how life goes. If and when that day comes, I will get through it as I’ve gotten through this.

But for now, on this day, at this moment, I feel myself rising up. Rising far beyond the past that I’ve let go of. The past that will no longer drag me down.

I’m excited about what’s next, and excited to maybe soon write about something besides what I’ve gone through. Because I’ve gone THROUGH it and I’m on the other side.

Maybe I’ll write again tomorrow or maybe it will be another few months. Who knows?

Maybe I’ll write about how big my kids are and how I feel like the time is slipping away from me so quickly (my son is a sophomore in high school…how the hell did that happen?!?).

Maybe I’ll write about some crazy embarrassing thing that I did (again).

Maybe I’ll write about love or joy or kindness. Or all of these things.

So many possibilities now that I’ve let go.

First the letting go, then the rising up.

Time to rise.