I’m sure by now you have realized that parenting is not an easy business and it doesn’t matter what stage you are at. There are times when you think you will never survive this, that, or the other thing during a particular stage. Then it passes and you breathe a sigh of relief… only to be greeted by the next parenting challenge.
When you have a newborn, you think you’ll never figure out how to understand their cries and you’ll never get to sleep again. When you have an early walker, you worry about how you can possibly baby-proof the entire world for your little one. When you have a toddler, you worry about whether or not you are playing with them intentionally enough and whether or not you are teaching them the things they need to learn. You almost lose your cool on a daily basis during toddler tantrums and you battle over picky eating. Then comes childhood and there are an entirely new crop of challenges – bullies, cattiness, broken hearts – challenges that I have never been through, but that I know lie ahead.
It’s exhausting to think about.
Some days I feel like I am just treading water and I just know that everyone around me can tell that I am a fraud. I know that they can see right through my composed demeanor during that meltdown at the grocery store and they know that at my core, I have no clue what the hell I’m doing. How does one become qualified to be a parent? I have a college degree in family and child development and I still feel like I’m blindly navigating the uncharted territory of parenthood. I know that I’m not alone in this.
What makes it that much harder are all the people who tell you: “Oh! This time is so precious! Cherish every moment, because they grow up so fast and you will miss this.” You know that they are right deep in your heart, and you know that they are well-meaning, but when you are in the thick of it, you don’t feel in a particularly cherishing mood, you feel like punching those people in the face.
Let’s be real: I DO NOT cherish those moments when my child is losing it over the fact that I absconded the purple crayon she was using to write all over the wall. I do not cherish those exhausting hours from 5 PM to 8 PM every night. Those hours when I am bone tired and dinner needs to be made and my toddler did not nap and she’s grumpy and needs constant entertainment for the next three hours. Once you know you can survive those three hours, you know you can survive anything, but you still hate that part of the day. And that’s OK.
I want to tell you parents that it is OK to not cherish every single moment. Not every moment is lovely as a parent – despite the way it sometimes seems when you are flipping through your Instagram feed. It’s just not reality. There are ugly moments and there are tiring moments and there are moments when you feel like you are the last person on the planet who is qualified to be a parent and that surely you are setting your child up for future therapy sessions. But, just know that you are not alone. There are other parents out there, probably the ones who you think have all their ish together, who feel just like you are feeling. Parents who feel like they are just treading water too.
I want to tell you that you are doing a great job. Sometimes (most times) we don’t get to hear that as parents. We receive affirmation in many other areas of our lives, but not nearly enough in the area of parenting, particularly when you have young children who can’t communicate. So I am telling you – you are doing a wonderful job and you probably aren’t screwing it up as badly as you think. Odds are, your kids don’t even notice and the other people around you probably think you have it all figured out too.
I want to tell you that it’s OK to not cherish every moment because that would be kind of impossible. Children are a wonderful blessing, but they are also the freaking hardest challenge you will ever take on in your entire life, so you can have moments where you are just trying to “get through.” That’s normal.
But, every so often, after you’ve put the kids to bed or in the middle of the day or whenever the moment strikes you… stop to take it all in. Write down the little moments that make you smile and forget the tantrums. Tell your spouse about the cool new thing that your child just learned. Enjoy a walk through the park and a special treat, just you and your little one. Flip through the happy photos from that trip to the zoo last week and remember that, “The days are long, but the years are short.” You don’t have to love every moment so long are you stop to soak it up occasionally. Because as annoying as it is to hear, you probably will miss it one day… at least some of it.
And don’t forget, we’re in this together. Good luck and God speed!
Lauren Hartmann is the founder of The Little Things We Do, a blog about life and adventures in Portland Oregon. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram or catch up on all of her posts here on Babble. More from Lauren: