It was recently revealed by everyone, everywhere for the nth year in a row that "Enjoy every moment" wins the grand prize for the single most irritating thing you can say to a parent, although especially to the parent of an infant or young child. You go ahead and enjoy cleaning up my kid's diarrhea from the carpet, which is where it landed after they decided all on their own that it'd be a good idea to take off their diaper for no particular reason. I'll wait over here enjoying not cleaning it up until you're done.
Quite possibly the second most annoying morsel of wisdom imparted unto parents is a similar adage, although still a bit different: "You'll miss it when it's gone." Surely one day many parents will, indeed, miss the scent of their freshly bathed baby, and the feeling of a wee one fast asleep on their chest. Yet when people say "you'll miss it when it's gone," they seem to also mean the other stuff, too, that doesn't involve cleanliness and quiet.
My daughters and I were visiting my family earlier this summer and it was obvious to my parents right away that it would take a lot of work on their part to pry my 4-year-old from me. Ever. It's as if she's my third leg, or maybe like she worries she might fall from a skyscraper at any moment, which is why attempting to crawl back into my womb—literally—is her best bet for survival.
Do they not remember how frustrating it was to have to hear "You'll miss it when it's gone" from other people?
I love being loved by her. Likewise, I adore her. I don't, however, need her hands down my shirt at random intervals because she thinks gripping my breasts is a smart way to ensure we'll never be apart. While I often say my kids are more critical to me than air, I actually mean that figuratively. She, on the other hand, feels the same way, but literally.
If anyone other than me asks her a question, her answer is most likely to be, "Mama." As in, "How old are you?" "Mama." Or, "What's your favorite color?" "Mama." Now I know how the Beatles must have felt on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964, or Justin Bieber before he went through puberty and, subsequently, the deep end.
My mom looked on one night after dinner as I pleaded with my daughter to please, please, please give me some space.
"I love you," I told her. "But I don't love it when you try to stuff yourself up the opening of my pant leg."
My mom smiled. "It's so sweet. You'll miss this when it's gone."
Here's what I'll miss when it inevitably stops happening: My daughters turning to their friends first, instead of me, to share some bit of good news, or when they need a reassuring shoulder on which to cry. I'll miss them holding my hand when we cross the street, or even just when we watch TV (although I still hold my mom's hand, so there's some hope there). I'll miss them crawling into bed with me late at night or early in the morning because they say I'm cuddlier than their loveys. I'll miss them letting me pick out their clothes and braid their hair. I'll miss them needing me to explain what a word means, or asking me how to spell it. I'll miss being able to pick them up for a hug, or watching them explode with joy like 4th of July fireworks when I walk into one of their classrooms.
What I will never miss, though, is being made to feel uncomfortable because they seem like they cannot make a move without me by their side. I'll never miss being asked the same question on a continuous loop that rivals the speed of a hummingbird's wings, which is roughly an average of 53 beats per second. I won't miss them crying starvation, only to have food set in front of them and they announce that they're full after two bites. I won't miss them looking me in the eye and promising to cease dropping their clothes on the floor like Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs at the precise moment they take their clothes off and drop them on the floor. I will never miss the phone calls my from parents, or my mother-in-law, between 4 to 7:30 p.m. in which they ask me if everything is OK because they hear a lot of screaming in the background. I'll also never miss the grandparents letting me know that as soon as I left, the kids were totally fine with them.
I do understand the sentiment most people are trying to communicate. But for those who've been there and done that, do they really miss the uglier sides of child rearing? And do they not remember how frustrating it was to have to hear "You'll miss it when it's gone" from other people, usually during the exact moments that anyone with any shred of sanity would want to forget?
It would make life a whole lot more pleasant if people would trust that most parents do their best to enjoy the small moments, while simultaneously working hard to move past the other moments that aren't as worthy of treasuring—including the bad ones created by people who treat parents as if they're not smart enough to know which memories are worthy of cherishing.