Ever had a job where you had no experience, no training, you couldn’t quit, and people’s lives were at stake? That’s parenting.
As we prepare to launch our youngest out of childhood and into young adulthood, I find myself somehow cast in the role of wise old sage of parenting. This is odd since it seems like just yesterday I was catching our kitchen on fire and BoyWonder, at 12, had to save me (and his sister, and the cat, not necessarily in that order).
Of course I suppose having managed to raise a 12-year-old who knew how to put out (small) house fires and safely evacuate loved ones could make me somewhat a sage. Let’s go with that.
The thing is when thinking of childhood, we tend to focus on the early, inexperienced, years. I am speaking of parental inexperience of course.
Babies are born experienced. They’ve been busy being babies their whole lives.
It is fairly common, then, to see parents of brand new humans who are weeks, months, and even years old, staggering around just trying to put one foot in front of the other and make it through seemingly endless days (and nights). The days are long but the years are short, indeed. The days are even longer when you’ve had no more than two hours of uninterrupted sleep in weeks.
It is equally common for some well meaning soul who has older (or no) children to say “cherish the moments, they grow so fast” or some variation of the same.
I understand this. I do. I still can’t quite believe that the 6-foot of handsome man who reminds me to drive safely is the same toddler I once zipped into Pooh Bear pajamas and snuggled up under my chin for story time.
That the lean, supermodel blonde with the mean right kick is the same tiny girl who followed me everywhere. We were certain she would never learn to walk because she never let us put her down.
It seems like a blink of an eye that I went from their tiny fingers stuck under the bathroom door if I dared seek privacy for even a moment, to texting to ask whether they might be joining us for dinner? Nonetheless, I try very hard not to be “that mom” who chastises tired parents by extolling them to “cherish these precious moments.”
Let’s be honest, that advice is always leveled at parents with children acting out. I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded to cherish their cherub sleeping soundly like an angel.
Or their toddler dancing in the sunlight of the kitchen, or the way their school age child’s eyes light up when they see them in the audience, or pickup line after school.
Those moments are kind of a no-brainer. We are wired to respond positively to them. It is harder to cherish the moments when your toddler is in full meltdown at the grocery store.
When your baby has just spit up in the public pool (something swim diapers can’t account for since putting a diaper on a baby’s face is frowned upon), or any of your offspring are just behaving as if they were, in fact, raised by wolves. Nod.
I will not be telling people to savor every tantrum. Instead, I always try to smile and look understanding.
I make eye contact. I nod in agreement. This could also come off maniacal, I guess, but I never want to add to some poor adult guardian’s guilt.
Been there, done that, have the spit-up and tear stained T-shirt. All I can say is sometimes it’s okay to abandon ship (or the shopping cart) and go home.
Stand your ground
Other times you have to stand your ground. There were times when going home was exactly what my mutinous child wanted and I do not negotiate with terrorists.
If it helps, mine are 17 and 19, and I don’t miss random sleep patterns and itinerant screaming at all. It’s okay to wish that away.
I loved my babies but older humans are pretty fun to hang out with, converse with. I’ve learned a lot about life, love, and putting out small fires.
Better yet, they can even run errands for you! My advice, cherish the fun times, wade through the trials (this too shall pass) and remember sleep does come again. Perhaps after they’re married with kids of their own?