I’ve never been very good at responding to well-meant but sometimes downright annoying comments I get as a mother. I don’t mind most of them, but there is one that always gets me all worked up. It’s “Enjoy every moment,” or any variant thereof. As hard as I try, I can’t find a reasonable response to this, so I just mutter something along the lines, “Thank you, of course I’m enjoying this” and walk away.
The reason “Enjoy every moment” tops my “Most Annoying Comments I Get as a Parent” list is simple.
As parents we have our enjoyable moments of glory, like the cuddles and the kisses. They’re wonderful. But there are other moments, too. The ones that make us want to curl up under my bed.The ones that bring tears to our eyes and make us sick with worry.
These are the ugly moments of parenting that we forget when our children grow up. I personally don’t believe that every moment is there to be enjoyed. Some are just there to be endured.
Recently, I was running errands when I bumped into a friend I haven’t seen for a while. She was with her parents-in-law. I introduced myself. My friend’s MIL answered: “Nice to meet you! Oh, so you have three kids, how wonderful. Time passes so quickly, enjoy the moment!” As usual, I was at a loss for words. But then my friend said something that got my attention: “It’s fun watching them grow up.”
It’s fun watching them grow up.
My friend is undoubtedly a genius. With one single sentence, she perfectly managed to describe what I feel.
I am never sad when my children reach milestones and become more independent. When I see them grow up, I don’t feel despair but relief. I imagine having less work and more time to myself! If that doesn’t sound great, I don’t know what does.
But to me, seeing my children grow up also means that they are healthy and developing normally. Maybe this is so obvious to many parents but it certainly doesn’t feel that way to me. My eldest started speaking very late and I so relieved when she finally did start speaking. I felt the same way when I watched my little girl take her first wobbly steps at 22 months. Pure relief washed over me. But most of all, it means that instead of just surviving, I can step back and enjoy watching them blossom into the wonderful adults I know they will become.
Of course I understand why parents hold on to the baby stage so much. I have a baby myself and he smells like heaven. When he says “Mama,” it’s always sweet, while his bigger sisters often yell it rather than say it. “Mamaaaaa, I can’t find my shoes!” “Mamaaaa!!!!! I am afraid of the dark!” and so on.
I also know that when the children become bigger, so will the problems they will have to face. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that I will have teenagers some day and it scares me. But the number of things I enjoy doing with them is also growing and will increase even more: go to the cinema, for a coffee, or shopping. Cooking, reading or listening to music together. I know some things will get worse but others will most definitely get better. Or so I hope because in reality, I have no idea what the future will bring.
I am definitely not enjoying every moment. I am enjoying the process, the journey, the progress- and yes, the vision of having adult children one day.
So next time, when someone tells me to enjoy every moment, I will smile and tell them, “Yes, it’s so much fun watching them grow up.” And I won’t even have to lie.