As I imagine you—you, who are me, many years after I've
been the parent of young children—I picture you as someone who is well-rested. Not
necessarily carefree. Not completely serene. But well-rested. At least a hell
of a lot more well-rested than I am right now. Almost as if you
regularly get a full night's sleep. And drink an entire hot cup of coffee every morning.
In a quiet house. With no little, grubby hands smearing peanut-butter on the
walls or wiping snot onto your clean shirt.
I hate you. I mean, I love you. I envy you. I am you.
(This is weird, talking to my future self.)
Future self, I think I know exactly what you want to tell
me right now. I can picture the tears welling in your eyes. I can sense your
You are probably still the sentimental sap that I am, that
I always have been and that I likely always will be.
I can hear you begging me to hold my babies tight, to
never let them go because they will not be this small and this easy to hold
I know now that their childhoods and their littleness are speeding
by fast. The 9-year-old brushes off my hugs every day. The 6-year-old can
barely fit in my arms anymore. The 3-year-old still snuggles me close,
though I know he'll be just as big, just as reluctant to cuddle as his brothers
You imagine their little faces, their cherubic cheeks, but you erase the screeching, the competing needs, the way you held your breath and clenched your eyes shut when you didn't know how to muddle your way through the constant noise of parenting little ones.
But before you remind me of how "it all goes by so
fast"—before you urge me to "cherish every moment"—I need to remind you of all
that you might forget about being a parent of young children. Because you do
forget some of it. I know that you do, because I'm already starting to forget
it. With each passing year, I forget more of the specific textures, the exact
decibels, the precise frustrations of being a parent of young children.
You see, you probably forget what it's like to have
three small people needing something from you all at the same time. You might
be able to imagine it. Perhaps you smile wistfully just thinking about it. But
that's probably because your memories are on mute. You imagine their little
faces, their cherubic cheeks, but you erase the screeching, the competing
needs, the way you held your breath and clenched your eyes shut when you didn't
know how to muddle your way through the constant noise of parenting little ones.
You probably forget what it felt like to hate hearing
the words, "Mom? Mom! Mom?! Mommy? Moooommmmmm?" You might give anything to
hear those words right now, to hear your children's tiny voices once again. But you must remember that there was a time when
all you wanted was for no one to need anything from you for an entire hour. Or
just 15 minutes. Even five minutes.
There were times when you locked yourself
in the bathroom so that you could cry. Sometimes you didn't even know why you
were crying. It was just all too much, all the needing of you—you, Mom, Mommy,
You probably forget what it felt like to never, ever
poop in peace. You might forget those days where going to the bathroom—alone, uninterrupted—felt
like a vacation. You probably don't remember what it was like to rush each call
of nature so that you wouldn't give your toddler enough time to destroy the
house, or themselves. And so, if you want me to savor a few more moments with my
little kids, please go to the bathroom right now and savor the hell of out the
fact that you can pee and poop without anyone screaming at you or banging on
the door. I want you to cherish every day where your butt is the only one you
are responsible for wiping.
You probably forget what it's like to try and have a
thought—a single, coherent thought—in the midst of your children's whining and
arguing and incessant tugging at your pants leg. You might miss the chatter of their
little voices, but I'd bet all the money in the world that you only miss it as
background noise. You miss the beautiful, sweet moments that you've committed
to memory. You likely don't miss those times when the sheer difficulty of
parenting young children threatened to swallow you whole.
But I cannot cherish every moment.
You probably forget how desperate and hollow all the
selflessness of parenting little ones made you feel.
And so, I will make some promises to you: I want you to know that I will kiss all the tiny hands
and toes and cheeks I can tonight. I want you to know that I will linger for a
little while when the older boys reach to hug me. I want you to know that I
will be grateful for their not-so-busy schedules and their not-so-grown-up
problems. I want you to know that I will relish each time they say, "I love
you," each time I hear their laughter as they play with one another.
But I cannot cherish every moment. I cannot promise
that I won't wish the time to speed by a bit more quickly in those more chaotic
parenting moments. I cannot savor every second of parenting because not every
second is savor-able.
All I can do is try my best to raise these kids to be people who, with only minimal prodding, will still want to hug their mom with
their grimy, grubby big hands, who will still say, "I love you" with their deep, grown-up voices.
And I imagine that I will still have plenty to savor when I'm you.