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“Enjoy them now while they’re little – They grow too fast.”, says the serene, older woman to me as my preschooler wails like a dying animal and spits in my face. Really, lady? You sure about that?
Seriously, there are days when I dream the sweetest dream of the day that they’re grown and on their own (hopefully). Parenting is freaking hard, man. But sometimes, I think I’m alone in that sentiment.
A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Georgia for work and had lunch with some colleagues. While we had worked together here and there via phone and email, this was the first time we were meeting in person. Per usual, someone initiated the conversation about kids. Do you have any? How many? How old? Boys or girls?
We went around the table. A man about my age with 3 kids (ages ranging from 10 months to about 8 years old), a woman with a 17 year old daughter, and another woman with two sons in their twenties.
I chimed in, “I have 2 little guys – 1 and 3.” Everyone smiled and the two women at the table reminded me to enjoy every moment because it goes so fast. Do you know how many times I hear that in a week? WAY TOO MANY.
I knowwwwww, but I usually feel like it can’t go fast enough! I wanted to say.
Oh ,no, wait. I DID say that. And then I laughed. But no one else did. They just looked at me like I told them I gave birth to the anti-christ (whichhhh is a possibility).
This is odd. Other parents usually laugh along and fervently agree with me. And then we trade war stories. What the hell is going on here? And this guy has young kids like me… he gets it, right?
I looked at him with desperation in my eyes. Nope. He does not. Definitely not in Jersey anymore.
I stopped laughing and quickly lied, “But yeah, totally. I’m really appreciating every moment. It’s crazy how fast time goes,” and then asked someone a question about their kids. Deflect, deflect, deflect.
I gotta admit, that totally threw me for a loop. First, I felt denial. I could not get over that there are parents who don’t (or didn’t) count the minutes until bedtime! Preposterous!
They just forget what it was like in the trenches, I reasoned to myself. And the guy with young kids? Pssssh. He’s obviously hands off.
Then, anger. Very irrational anger. WTF? These hifalutin, holier-than-thou parents! Ugh. Obnoxious.
Onto bargaining and guilt. Oh, who am I kidding? These people are clearly fantastic parents. If only I had more patience. If I were a more loving person, I wouldn’t be such an ungrateful, mean mom.
Next, depression. Omg I suck. I suck, I suck, I suck. Worst parent ever. And I made an ass out of myself. Way to go, Jen. I need a nap. A long, 5-day nap.
And finally, acceptance. Ok, yeah, I do wish time away. Some days are super HARD. And that’s ok. And it’s ok that they don’t feel the same way I do. Everyone is different. But I’m doing my best and my boys know I love them.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. Adam and I have days when there have been one too many poop accidents and we can’t soothe our teething baby. We snap at our 3 year old and at each other. We’re tired, we’re stressed, we feel like we’re failing. And all we want is for it to be the year 2028 when our kids will be old enough to feed themselves, entertain themselves, and wipe their own butts.
Hell, we would even take 7:30 pm on that very day so the kids will go to sleep and we can fall onto the couch and stare at the wall in silence. Sweet, sweet silence.
These moments are obviously not our proudest.
We joke around about parenting in a self-deprecating way for a couple of reasons: 1. It’s a coping mechanism for feeling like we’re way worse parents than everyone else and 2. It’s a way to test the waters and see if anyone else is failing as miserably as we are. And most times, it works! Other parents feel just like we do and we are vindicated!
The truth is the “bad” days are top of mind because we truly are in the trenches of parenting right now. Temper tantrums, lack of sleep, daycare costs. It’s normal for the negative stuff to take up the most space in your brain.
So I forget about all the good moments. The smell of our 1 year old after his bath, the hilarious sentences our 3 year old randomly comes out with, how they toot and don’t give a thought about it, bedtime cuddles and family hugs. These brief little moments of joy and humor that happen throughout the day and that I take for granted because the days feel long, so very long.
Many times, I don’t even realize how amazing these moments are. But then, every once in a blue moon, it hits me that they really are only this little once. One day I will wake up and they will be all grown up. Adam and I will no longer be their entire world, the center of their universe. And I become incredibly present, clinging on to the sound of their baby laughs and their tiny hands. I pull them close, breathe them in, and thank god for these challenging, long, beautiful days.
Because one day, I will be the experienced, patient parent, lovingly urging that young, tired mom to enjoy these moments – they grow up too fast.
Are you a parent of little ones or grown children? What is or was the hardest part of parenting for you, and what part do or did you enjoy the most? I’d love to know!