Enjoy Every Moment, Because It Goes So Fast!
When I was a new parent there were 2 distinct camps apparent in all of the motherhood circles: the experienced mothers lamenting about days gone by as they lectured us about enjoying this time, and the flustered new moms complaining about this very same advice. Every mother of a squirming baby or screaming toddler has experienced smiling and nodding politely as the grandma in the grocery store looks at us longingly and implores us to “enjoy every moment”.
“Enjoy every moment??”, a new mom thinks incredulously. “Enjoy the spit-up and the colicky evening screaming and the piercing nursing pain and the sleep deprivation and the isolation? Enjoy the fear of not knowing what I’m doing and the pain of realizing I’ll make mistakes? I just need 2 seconds to myself and I haven’t brushed my hair in 3 days!”
So what gives? Did these well-meaning seasoned mothers not experience the same crippling exhaustion, depression, anxiety, and fear of being solely responsible for a brand new human life? Have our elders simply forgotten about the hard things? Or perhaps they know some secret we didn’t know when we first embarked upon our journey as mothers; floating away on a tide of new emotions and circumstances we can’t control.
Now that my daughter is older, I understand this advice a little bit better. And I don’t want to look back and realize I missed it all. I don’t want to regret any wasted time.
Some days, life is so busy that I realize at the end of the day we’ve simply missed each other. I stop and ponder… Have I really looked into my daughter’s eyes today? Listened to her? Told her how much I love her? Or did I brush her off when she tried to show me something? Did I secretly roll my eyes as she asked me one more question while I tried to make dinner?
Now that I know how fast the years go by.
Now that I know how truly short a childhood is.
Now that I know how they grow out of milestones as fast as they grow out of their clothes.
Now that I realize with painful clarity that this day right in front of me will one day be a distant memory.
Now that I realize these things, I want to do a better job of savoring each day and turning moments into memories. Because I know…
I’ll forget about that favorite shirt she wore until it turned gray.
I’ll forget how she used to crinkle her nose when she’s concentrating.
I’ll forget what her cute little baby laugh sounded like when we tickled her.
I probably won’t remember any of the 5 million questions she asked me this year.
But I do want to remember how it felt. I want to remember how much we loved and how much we laughed. They told me to enjoy every moment. But they never told me how much I’d want to freeze time. How much my heart would ache looking back at the time stretching out behind me and glancing in trepidation at the time racing up before me.
The baby stage doesn’t last forever (even if it feels like it). The toddler stage doesn’t last forever. Even those difficult teenage years don’t last forever. And if you spend each stage of childhood wishing it away and waiting for the next stage, you’ll soon find that you missed them all.
Right now my daughter is only 8, but I am painfully aware of how all too soon that will turn into 18.
I remember once seeing an article reminding parents that we only have 18 summers to make memories with our children. But really, in a way, it’s much less. You will only have 1 summer with your new baby. 1 summer with your toddler. 1 summer with your preschooler. 1 summer with your 9-year-old. 1 summer with your 13-year-old. I’m sure you get the idea. Every age is a completely new experience. And what passes by once will never pass by again. You will never again experience the joys and wonders of that age at that particular time. You will never again experience the firsts and the lasts each stage of life brings.
When you first realize this, the “fear of missing out” can turn into panic as you try to cram in every possible activity and experience to make every memory the best you can. I must admit, I’ve spoiled my fair share of holidays and milestones running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to make sure we did all.the.things.
“Did we go to the beach? Did we go to the pool? Did we have a backyard BBQ? What about a camping trip? The waterpark? Wait, summer is almost overdid we remember to blow bubbles in the backyard? Did we complete those 5 Pinterest activities I saved last summer in the middle of the night? Did we take family pictures in the bluebonnets? Next year she’ll be too old. Next year he’ll have outgrown Daniel Tiger. Next year they won’t want matching Paw Patrol pajamas. There’s not enough time! How can we possibly do it all?”
Of course, you can’t. I can’t. Even the most accomplished Pinterest mom can’t. None of us can.
The best thing we can do is to slow down. To stop, savor, and realize. Put the phone down. Remember to pick the camera up. Treat each moment as valuable and precious and fleeting. Live mindfully. Take the time to look, to listen, to really see. Instead of rushing around trying to recreate someone else’s life, take time to stop and enjoy your own.
Those of us lucky enough to have more than one child, and those of us blessed enough to get to experience making memories with our grandchildren one day – we’ll get another do-over. Another chance to get it right. But not all of us will. For some of us, these days are the only ones we’ll get.
These messy days – with the spit-up stains and the spilled sippy cups. With the temper tantrums and the potty training accidents. With the half-eaten dinners and the tear-filled bedtimes. As beautiful as these days can be, they can also be hard.
So maybe asking an exhausted new mom to enjoy every moment isn’t quite the right sentiment. Maybe the right advice is to value every moment. To realize how fleeting it is. To find the meaning in every moment – both good and bad. Even the worst of moments can teach us something and even our most frustrated and sleep-deprived day has the potential for joy and magic. If you spend these moments wishing the hard ones away, you’ll miss the value in them. The challenge can become a lesson and the mundane can become a memory. For those of many faith backgrounds, a trial is nothing more than an opportunity for growth and our character is often built the highest in the depths of the storm.
So stop to take the pictures. Savor every moment. Cry when you need to. Because there’s beauty even in the hard things. And in finding the joy and purpose and meaning in even the smallest everyday moment – maybe we’re a step closer than we think to enjoying every moment after all.