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I'm sure many of you have already stumbled across this link this week from the blog Momastery, but I'll share it here anyway: Don't Carpe Diem. The subject is similar to a post I wrote a couple months ago: Enjoy Every Minute...It All Goes So Fast. As a summary - both posts talk about the frustration of having little old ladies stop you to tell you to enjoy every single minute of parenting young children. We both describe the feelings of inadequacy that arise when you simply cannot do that. And then we both talk about those little moments that shine through in spite of the chaos and challenges. The Momastery author, Glennon, writes beautifully about the golden times, referring to them as Kairos moments. I really enjoyed her post, enough to skim through the 1,500 comments already posted when I read it a few days ago. I was particularly struck and interested in what the older parents and generations had to say.
Guess what? Many unabashedly stuck with the phrase: Enjoy Every Minute, It All Goes So Fast.
Now, I maintain that they can't remember how dang hard it is to be cripplingly sleep-deprived (still doing 2-3 wake ups a night over here!) or how physically demanding it can be with young children. Young Biggie, at 21 lbs, is simply going to hurt my back. There is no ergonomic expert to call into my office to help me out like there was for me back in 2006. But I do think there is a lot of wisdom in what the older generations have to say, even if it's not what I want to hear.
And so I kept myself open to those comments. I read what older parents said about big kids, big problems. I read what older women said about how they miss feeling pure love from their little ones and how their adult children are so distant from them now. I read about parents who had lost their children and the painful wisdom they acquired with their losses. And I read - and absolutely understood - what my fellow in-the-trenches moms are saying about exhaustion and how they are looking forward to reclaiming a little of one's self when the kids get a bit older.
I have thought on all those perspectives all week long, often with a feeling of discomfort, sometimes fear. Does my life have to go downhill once the kids are no longer young? Is it so terrible and heartbreaking to parent a teenager? Will my relationships with Bella and Oliver be distant and cold in 20, 30 or 50 years? Do I have to enjoy every moment now in order to cling to the happiness? Is this it? Is this the pinnacle of my life?
I think the answer to those questions (though I readily admit it is coming from a parent who is just starting her journey) is no. Or at least not necessarily. No, my life does not have to be downhill from here. No, it doesn't have to be purely terrible to parent a teenager. No, I don't have to accept a bad relationship with Bella and Oliver as we both age. And no, I still don't have to enjoy every single moment right now. It. Is. Impossible.
But is this time going to be one of the happiest of my life? Will I think back on these crazy days with nothing but fondness as I age? Will I want to stop other young moms with their kids in the grocery store in 2050? Will I actually tell them "Enjoy every minute...it will all go by so fast."
Yes, yes, yes, and NO.
Right now is really good and really hard. And I'm beginning to suspect that that will not really change for the rest of my life. Hard will change from being physical to emotional. But good moments will always be coming down the line, too. This does not have to be the pinnacle of my life, but it will be a bright spot.
I will listen to my elders and really try to enjoy these glory days. But I will also not beat myself up for not having the time of my life every day just because there are some "dark days" in my parenting future.
Because there really isn't any way to prepare for parenting a teenager or a grown adult any more than there is a way to prepare yourself for parenting in the first place. I couldn't stock up on sleep before I got pregnant to redeem now when I most need it. Similarly, I can't stock up on hugs and kisses and snuggles from Bella and Oliver to soothe me when they are having difficult days as teens. It doesn't work that way. I have to take each stage one day at a time, bask in the beautiful moments, and just try to get through it in the best way I can - finding some balance between raising my kids in a thoughtful way and maintaining my own happiness.
And so this week I celebrated Oliver and his two big milestones. I was extra cognizant of the fact that time is slipping through my fingers and this is most likely the last time I'll celebrate a first tooth or first crawl from a child of mine. I was in the moment again and again with him. It was important to document these milestones as this week's Project 52.
Pictures. Words. Now those I can stock up. In that way, I can be proactive.
When I am 80, I can look at back on my life and enjoy every last word and image, marveling at the fact that it all went by so fast.