You’ve probably heard someone say it, or you’ve read it: “We only get 18 years with our kids.”
That’s 18 summers. 18 Christmases. 18 birthdays. Of course, we hope to get more, as the ultimate goal is that our adult children are still very much a part of our lives. But chances are, they’ll be off in college or working and raising their own families, so maybe they won’t be around in the summer or will miss Christmas some years — and birthdays aren’t always a given.
So should we start counting down now? Should we make sure that every single summer and every single holiday is special and memorable? What if we skip the sparklers one Fourth of July or don’t do an egg hunt one Easter? Is that okay?
Well, Nikki Pennington who writes the blog Grief to Hope says yes, it is — and that we should feel zero guilt about it.
In a recent Facebook post, mother of three said we all need to stop.
“Stop telling me I only have eighteen summers with my kids,” her post read. “Stop telling me I only have nine hundred and forty Saturdays with them. Stop telling me to soak it all up and enjoy every moment.”
Because you know what we moms really don’t need? Pressure to do more. We are already doing all the things and never resting. We already give so much — sometimes everything — and forget ourselves. So to add the extra demand of “You better enjoy it all!” along with a calendar reminder that time is ticking away is like a stab to the heart, which Pennington feels is unnecessary and unfair.
She also tells Babble that this message could be especially hurtful to some, depending on their circumstances.
“Working parents, divorced parents — their time is cut in half or they don’t get that time at all,” she says.
Also, as someone who has spent the last seven years grieving the loss of her mother, she reminded us in her post that we don’t actually know how many summers we are going to get.
“Y’all, some parents were only blessed with one summer with their baby,” she wrote. “And some parents never even get one Saturday with their child because they never made it that far.”
Her post went on to say that blog posts about counting the summers and enjoying every minute only have a negative effect.
“I can’t enjoy it because I’m too busy stressing and doing the math to find out how many Saturdays or summers or enjoyable moments I have left or how many I’ve already missed out on,” she said.
Who wants to spend motherhood like that?
Furthermore, she added that this sentiment of “enjoying every minute” is a ridiculously impossible expectation to put on a parent — especially one in the trenches with a “screaming toddler” or “a teenager that they don’t even recognize right now.”
No one enjoys those moments. No one. So stop saying we should, because it makes moms feel guilty.
Instead, Pennington encouraged us to say “enjoy it when you can,” and that it’s okay when you can’t. She urged everyone not feel pressured to count summers or Saturdays, but to instead enjoy the moment we’re in — and be grateful if it’s a good one.
She also said that we moms need to be wary of the pressures we put on ourselves due to social media.
“Years ago, we didn’t know who was having an elaborate Pinterest perfect birthday party,” she tells Babble. “You just had the party your parents could afford. Social media has changed the way childhood looks these days. My best birthdays included homemade cupcakes, my one and only party attendee was my cousin and that was it. Today that would be unacceptable for a highlight reel on social media. I was raised by a single mom that always had to work to provide for us and my childhood was still so memorable.”
That’s important to keep in mind as we do our best to raise kind, appreciative kids who look back on their “18 summers” and see a childhood full of memories. It’s not about the Pinterest reel. It’s about the memories you make and the joy on their faces.
Pennington ends her post by saying: “I’m no longer counting and you shouldn’t either. Instead I’m soaking up every minute I’ve been given in the here and now.”
That sounds pretty good to me, too.