“Cherish this moment.” “The days are long but the years are short.” “Before you know it, they will be 18 and heading to college.” “They won’t be your babies forever.” And I could go on and on…and on with all of the “helpful” advice that I so often hear as a mom to young kids. But you know, I just want to say, that I hate that stuff. I hate the cheesy one-liners that are supposed to make me feel better when my kids are being tiny terrors or they have the 13th illness of the year or they are throwing a tantrum at Target or are having potty accidents at the library.
Don’t get me wrong, I love, absolutely love my kids and I adore that I still get snuggles and excited-to-see-me-hugs. It is a joy watching them grow and reach the next developmental stage and I am constantly amazed by their awe and wonder from the tiniest insect to the clouds in the sky. But being a mom to young kids is hard, and I mean really hard. I was just listening to NPR the other day as they discussed the idea that our culture and country does not prepare parents for just how much of a struggle it is to have young kids. Outwardly, everything looks great – those newborn pictures when they are all scrunched into a fishing net or baseball glove, the sweet little commercials with mom singing how much she loves her toddler as she bathes her, the fun little toys and cute little clothes that are all over the stores. But in reality, parenting young kids more often than not, is deeply challenging and difficult.
Case in point from a few months ago. I take my 2-year-old to pick up her 4-year-old brother from preschool. Spring is in the air, flowers are blooming, birds are chirping and Mother’s Day is just around the corner. We wait in the designated line to retrieve my son and I make small talk with other parents as I watch their kids walk quietly to them, one at a time, and give them cute little homemade Mother’s Day gifts and cards. I observe as all of the moms gush over their new gifts and hug their kiddos close. I am next in line and as I approach the door, my 4-year-old notices me. Instead of walking quietly to greet me, as he has been told to do every.single.time. that I pick him up from preschool by his teachers and by me, he takes off, running full speed towards me, roaring like a dinosaur in the loudest possible voice he can muster. Instead of taking the proffered homemade gift offered by the teacher waiting nearby, he completely ignores it, races past us, not heeding my or the teacher’s calls, and runs straight out the door leading outside. The teacher sheepishly hands me the gift herself along with a bag full of artwork my loving son has made over the last month, while I scoop up his dropped backpack and lunchbox, maneuver my 2-year-old on my hip and run out the door behind my son. I burst out the door in time to see him picking tulips from the school’s flower garden as a group of moms watch on the sidelines. I set my daughter down and go through a thorough explanation on a.) why he cannot just run outside by himself and b.) why although it was sweet of him to pick me a flower, he can’t pick it from the school’s property. As I am saying this, I look over to see my daughter over by the tulips now and picking flowers to bring to me as well. I hurriedly run over to her, while juggling the various bags, and also explain to her that although it was sweet of her to pick me a flower, she can’t pick those flowers. And as I am doing that, my 4-year-old careens past me and into the crowded parking lot full of moving cars. I scream his name and race after him, quickly telling my daughter to stay put. Thankfully, I meet him, unharmed at the car, and I work on manually unlocking our SUV, since our keyless entry stopped working a few days earlier. As I am unlocking my car and trying to chastise him for his behavior, while still juggling the various bags, and keeping an eye on my daughter, who decided it would be super fun to play with dirt and woodchips away from the parking lot, my alarm starts going off on my car because of my “keyed” entry. I start yelling at my son to stay put, at my daughter to stay where she is, while I dive headfirst into the car to get my key into the ignition switch and turn the car on so the ear-deafening alarm turns off. My son decides not to stay put and is racing around my car, so I quickly wrangle him into his carseat, while still juggling the blasted bags that are wrapped around my wrists and turn around to go and get my daughter. As I approach my daughter, I tell her we have to go, in retaliation for having to go, she decides it would be a great idea to shove dirt and woodchips into her mouth. I try talking to her as she spits out mouthfuls of dirt and tell her to stop, while I unwrap the various bags I am carrying in preparation to pick her up and manually get her into the car. She continues to unabashedly shove dirt and woodchips in her mouth and spit them out again until I finally drop everything I am carrying into an empty parking space, race to pick her up and put her in the car. Together, she and her brother are crying as I calmly walk back to get my bags, wave a sedate goodbye to all of the various moms still huddled together, and dump everything into my car where I proceed to start bawling along with my children.
Now, I will admit, I did not cherish that moment. Nor do I think I should. That moment was really frickin’ hard. It was not a Hallmark commercial, it was real and true life when dealing with very young, immature, selfish, willful, temperamental little human beings. I am a huge proponent of living in the present moment and fully feel that there are absolutely things that I can, and should, and am thankful for at this stage of life. But it is a hard stage of life and to all of those 50+ year old mothers who like to tell us young moms how we need to love this moment while it is here because it is going to fly by soon, I would say, stop. We get it. We know our little ones are getting bigger and moving up towards adulthood every day. On some days, it makes us sad. But on other days, we rejoice that we are past the colic, that we are past the terrible twos, or past the days like the one I wrote about before. Someday, we will hopefully have grandbabies that we can go and visit and “cherish the moment” with and then leave to the blissful quiet of our own homes. But for now, we are here, we are in the midst of the chaos and the struggle, and your kindly advice would be better left in your peaceful, calm, clean and perfectly put-together home. Thanks.