To the well meaning empty nesters who warn me to cherish EVERY moment…

I encounter you at the grocery store.  At the gym.  At the park.  On random sidewalks.  Typically places and times I am trying to calm a toddler temper tantrum while hanging on to a baby who is trying desperately to spread her wings and leave my arms, while I try to answer the 5 year olds nonstop questions, mixed with yelling at 8 yo to not run into the street.  You laughingly comment, “wow, you have your hands full!” … just when I was thinking I was running a little light because I only had 4 out of my 7 kiddos with me at the moment.  Then you give me the tender smile laced with the reminiscent look and say, “Cherish EVERY moment you have with them, they will be grown and gone before you know it!”

I truly do appreciate your concern. I smile at your wise counsel. I nod in that serious matter that lets you know that I really am listening and acknowledging your insightful words.

But secretly, right below the surface of my sweet smile, is a silent scream and a vigilant holding my hand back from punching you in the mouth. Or the nose. Or poking you in the eye. Anything to make you jog your memory. Your TRUE memory of what it’s like in the trenches surrounded by wee ones.

Don’t get me wrong. I know you mean well. I really do try to cherish the memorable moments of motherhood. But there are many… MANY moments that I would much MUCH rather leave on the editing floor of the ‘remember when’s’ of bygone years. Those memories that I have absolutely no doubt have long left your memory of once upon a time also living life in the trenches, surrounded by wee ones.

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You see, when you solemnly declare that EVERY moment with them is ever so precious, (while you groom your ever-so-perfectly coifed hair and straighten your matching, ironed, dry-clean-only pant suit) you may not have taken into account that I (with my greasy bean smattered, ponytailed hair and stretched, stained yoga pants that haven’t been washed in i don’t know how long because they are the only pants that fit this no longer maternity needing, yet not able to breath in my regular pants IMG_9400body.  Not to mention the black eye I am sporting from being in the line of fire from 2 yo’s experiment with turning the remote into a projectile missile) am running on fumes. Fumes that have been born of a night laced with finally getting the colicky baby to sleep, only to be poked-in-the-eye-awake by the toddler needing yet another drink, which he only half drinks and then thinks it’s a fun time to begin the game of ‘spit out the rest on mom’… which I have to admit is a lot better than some other bodily substances that have been spit out at various hours of the night when whatever random child needed to throw up, but felt the deep desire not to b-line it for the toilet, but instead detour long enough to inform me of their activities, only to realize that they misjudged the time before their stomach contents would indeed need to be expunged from their mouth, and land on whatever body part of mine that happened to be exposed to the elements.

Fumes that have been exhausted by a way too early wake up call from a middle schooler, telling me that she forgot she needed  two bags of candy for some sort of object lesson in her speech in english and could I make a quick run to the store before car pool showed up… oh and could I also help her make cold lunch because she just checked the menu and lunch today was eeww.

Fumes that were mixed with the smell of a new york subway entrance as I realize one of the children didn’t quite hold it in through the night.  (but at least this time it was in their own bed and not on your back… another memory for the editing floor, right along with the times I have sat on the toilet myself, only to feel that eerily wet sensation on the the seat and realize it’s not water squishing the back of my legs.)

I am absolutely positive that when you think back to the memories of your own young family days, you are looking at the edited version.  A version that has, through the years, undergone a rigorous cut and paste process, until you have successfully remembered the tender moments (and believe me, there are many tender moments.  Moments that my heart seems to burst with love for my children and I really do wish I could hit the pause button and relish this moment in time forever!), and have forgotten the, well, not so great times (or at least can now look back on those with the humor that time and distance provide).

Please, please before you tell me that EVERY moment is precious, think back.  Way back.  Into the catacombs of the hate days.  You remember.  Those days where you watched your husband leaving the house, all pressed and clean and ready to spend the day having adult conversations, knowing full well that he would return in the same clean outfit unmarred by mashed bananas and spit-out-squash and you wanted to grab onto his pant legs along with the kiddos, kicking and screaming for him to not leave you alone.  That just for this one day, could you do your own version of ‘freaky friday’ and get to go have just a taste of the adult-only world??! (you would trade back right after… promise!)

Please reach down to the days when your newborn cried to eat and you started crying also, because you were not yet accustomed to nursing, and each and every suck sent shockwaves of pain throughout your body and it took every ounce of nurturing instinct to not shove that little pain-inflicting bundle of joy away from you.  Reach back and remember when dawn brought the dread of knowing that though you just got to sleep 45 minutes before, you had a whole gackle of littles who got great sleep and have already started placing their orders for the morning meal, followed by the long list of games they just can’t wait to play with you.  Those times when you decided that popcorn made a perfectly acceptable breakfast option, because the thought of loading the car, then the cart with all of the littles in order to replenish the milk supply that got depleted yesterday when the toddler decided to test the laws of gravity by pouring out the almost-full gallon, was just too much for you to bear.

In telling me to cherish every moment, you are heaping a load of guilt onto my already guilt-ridden soul.  I already feel guilty for moments when I daydream about having just a few, precious seconds (okay, hours) of sensational silent alone time.  I feel guilty about letting them watch yet another episode of super Y on the tablet just so I can clean the kitchen in peace.  Guilty for being a helicopter parent, followed by the guilt of just shoving them outside to play so I can let the walls muffle their sounds and I can pretend, just for a little bit, that I am once again in the care-free days of college, where my main decision was whether to study for the test or invite the apartment of cute guys over for dinner. Guilt for doing too much, or too little.  For being overly cautious, then not cautious enough.  Guilt for willing the clock on the wall to have some sort of hyper-speed motion, followed by guilt for wanting them to stay just this size forever so I never have to say goodbye and send them off into the big, bad world.

Yes, I have guilt.  guilt enough to fill the titanic.  And you telling me that every second with them is worthy of my cherishing and holding onto does not help.

In the moments of the trenches.  Deep down in the dug out, when I am trying so desperately to simultaneously shield my darlings from the whiles of the world, and fight the urge to run out on my own into the big bad world, I remember back to a time of receiving wise council from a mission mentor and dear friend.

In my younger years – before the momentous mommy hood times, I lived as a missionary in a foreign country.  Up to that point in life, I had heard people speak of such missions in terms of “It was the best time of my life!”  “I loved every minute of it!”

What I found when I was in the trenches of the mission life was quite different then those rosy tails, and I struggled.  It was HARD.  It was sweaty, and frustrating, and tiring, and many more emotions all rolled into one.  As we were walking down yet another dusty road, getting doors slammed in our faces, my dear mentor made a comment that has since resonated with me on many levels.  She said, “The bad moments will out number the good ones.  But the good ones far outweigh the bad.  When all is said and done, those are the ones that will remain.”
Oh how prophetic was that statement, both as a missionary, and now as a mommy.  When I am in the gulf of dirty diapers and hungry bellies with the phone ringing, the dog barking, and the baby screaming, instead of ‘cherishing the moment,’ I simply say to myself, “this is a lightweight memory.  It will fade with time and giveaway to a weightier moment, worthy of cherishing.” This thought is what gets me through the gulf.  Not the thought of, ‘why am I not in love with this very second of motherhood??  Don’t I know that time will pass very quickly??’  If that were the case, then why has it taken 3 hours for the second hand to make one revolution around the clock??!

You see, I have to give myself a bye at times.  A time out from cherishing.  A reminder that I will be able to look back on these moment with the filter that sifts the never ending afternoon hours and clings onto the snuggling infant, or the beaming preschooler, or the just-learned-to-share toddler.  Those are the weighted moments.  Those are the cherishable moments.  It’s okay to let some go.  It’s okay to not try to snatch up every second.

It’s okay to use your own personal sieve and let some things fall through the memory cracks… like the gum smooched into the carpet – that’s probably an ‘editing moment’  The time the whaling baby gets handed to you and she instantly calms down, and IMG_9846you have a little light bulb moment of realizing that you are her person.  That to her, you are the world.   That feeling of awestruck that you feel?  That’s a keeper.  You lock it up and keep it safe because you will need it soon (like for the later time she wants you to drop her off a block away so she won’t be ‘seen’ with her mother!).  Or the moment that you all have a spontaneous dance party… even your uber self-conscious tween boy joining in the shaking and shimmying?  Definitely a keeper.  The time when the son drops and beaks the way-too-expensive cello, and then simply shrugs it off as if you can just skip out the back and harvest the money tree to fix it and you have to count to 10… about 10 times to keep from slapping that smug smile off his face?  That’s one you can let sail through the sieve.

 

 

You get the picture.  Motherhood.  There are many moments.  some are keepers,

some are… well.. not.

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How about we change that all-too-often dished out advice?  Just a slight shift?  How about we tell each other, “grab the great, and let the rest go.”  (or better yet, grab the great, and for the rest, grab a camera!)  Let’s fIMG_8976ace it, there are forgettable moments in motherhood.  It’s okay to just make it through those. Then, when the really heavy moments come, we have open brain power to grasp it, package it, and truly cherish it forever.

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Comments

  1. good post, made me smile as a Mum of two little ones 😉 love how honest it is

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