On Not Enjoying Them When They’re Little

by Ginger on April 8, 2013

in Mom Thoughts, The Kid

We’ve been going through a somewhat challenging time with the kiddo the last few weeks. He’s been defiant and screamy and just generally not a pleasant human to be around. His teachers have noticed it, we’ve noticed it, the people in the grocery store giving us those looks have DEFINITELY noticed it. It hasn’t been the most fun part of parenting. We generally expect that when these happen they’re (somewhat) shortlived horror shows that precede a developmental leap of some kind, but just because we get that means they’re any easier to deal with in the middle of the screamfest.

And then, a few days ago, a switch flipped, and it was like we had been given a newer, more enjoyable model of little boy. He’s listening, and cooperating, and participating. When he gets worked up, we can help walk him back down from a  DEFCON 1 situation. He’s still THREE, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a little more calm and a little less “OMG THE WORLD IS ENDING!” It’s been a nice change, to say the least.

This is the thing about the “enjoy every moment, they grow up so fast” comments that get under my skin. Because look, I’m already insanely aware of the passage of time since becoming a parent. I see how fast he’s growing, and how quickly I will blink and he will be a man. I see the shoes that don’t fit him anymore, and the toys he’s too old for, and the “baby” things he has outgrown and I see us hurtling toward the future milestones and things he’ll one day outgrow. I KNOW this is happening, and no amount of me yelling, NO, WAIT STOP SLOW DOWN will make it happen any slower.

BUT.

The idea that every moment is worth savoring? I’m sorry, that’s bullshit. I love my child, and I get weepy just thinking about him getting older, and man there is a whole lot of awesome about this age, but I also have cried tears of frustration after the 40 minute screaming fits about putting on his karate gi (“It’s too FLOOOPPPPPYYYYY!” Yeah, I don’t even know.). I’ve had to put myself in a timeout when he has been defiant for the 50th time in the last hour. I’ve even had moments where, even with how insane/crazy/incredibly stressful work has been lately, I’m STILL glad to go to the office because it means a break from the constant boundary pushing, screaming, arguing, and whining.

This isn’t news to most people, but parenting is hard. Rewarding, but hard. Amazing, but hard. Fulfilling, but damnit, HARD. The admonitions to “enjoy every moment” add to that difficulty. It makes it seem like if you just try “harder” you’ll transcend past the difficult times and ENJOY them. It makes it seem, when you’re in the middle of another meltdown in the store, where you’re getting another judgmental look, when you’re at your wits end–that YOU are a failure, because why can’t you just ‘enjoy him while he’s little?’

Well, maybe because we’re humans first, parents second. We have breaking points. We have bad days. And sometimes our kids, loves of our lives that they are, can be little jerks. And you don’t always enjoy being screamed at by jerks. And to minimize the fraught moments of parenting, in the moment, with admonitions that “they won’t be little for long” is bullshit.

For me, it’s so much better to acknowledge the crappy times. To take a deep breath, and just try to power through, knowing it WILL BE OVER SOMEDAY. I don’t HAVE to enjoy the times when my kid is a jerk. Me acknowledging that a period in time is not wonderful does absolutely zero to diminish the moments that are amazing. I would rather enjoy the enjoyable moments than martyr myself and try to enjoy the crappy ones, just because time is passing and he is growing and this will one day just be a memory, and everyoneeveryoneeveryone likes to remind me of how fast he’s going to grow up. That knowledge doesn’t make THIS MOMENT any less crappy, you know?

So no, I won’t enjoy every moment. I won’t pretend that the hard moments aren’t hard just because he’s growing up. I won’t smile over my frustrations just because his days as a kid are short. I’ll own up to the fact that there are times that are hard, that make me want to scream in frustration, that make my blood pressure spike along with my temper. And then, I’ll enjoy the moments that are worth enjoying, the big ones and the little ones, and I will take those to heart and know that I ENJOY my kid and his childhood and being his parent…just not ALL the time.

Oren April 8, 2013 at 8:58 pm

On my last day, it will be the greatest honor of my life to have known my two kids. But jeez… I do get the shakes every once in a while… The “Oh, don’t talk to me or breathe next to me or remind me in any way that I’m not alone in the house right now” shakes. And then there’s guilt, because they’re just being kids, and “If only I had planned this day better, they wouldn’t have been screaming now” or “If only I were more into damn crafts…”

Some days are sucky, but just like we end up forgiving the kids, because what else are we going to do, we should forgive ourselves for needing that break from them every once in a while.

Christine @ Love, Life, Surf April 8, 2013 at 9:16 pm

This –> “And sometimes our kids, loves of our lives that they are, can be little jerks. And you don’t always enjoy being screamed at by jerks.” Absolutely! I don’t always savor the moments and there are many that I would like to fast forward through. Not because I don’t love my kids but because it’s hard sometimes. I like what Oren said – that some days are sucky and we forgive our kids but why can’t we forgive ourselves?

Shasta April 8, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Seriously, right, with the acknowledging. Most times, I’m not interested in my daughter staying young because I look forward to her growing up and doing things that come with growing up being able to self-regulate better and wipe her own butt and not pester me for Squinkies everytime we’re at Target.

april April 9, 2013 at 4:36 am

Yes, this. Yesterday I had to remind myself to enjoy them when I was inside making a spreadsheet of my twitter friends and they were outside playing kickball with daddy. So I put the laptop away and went out to join them all. But then when Henry broke down screaming three separate times and refused time out to collect himself “I’M ALL BETTER!!!!” WHILE STILL SCREAMING AND CRYING IS NOT BETTER, CHILD. And Spencer freaked out because I was playing with H instead of him (even though he was clearly playing with daddy) … oh, the crying and the fighting and the arguing is SO NOT my favorite part of childhood.

Mama Durso April 9, 2013 at 7:25 am

I could have written this. I go BALLISTIC on people who tell me to cherish every moment. I was complaining about being tired keeping up with my 3-year-old, my 22-month-old and also 8 weeks pregnant and my father-in-law helpfully tells me, “You’ll get plenty of sleep later. They won’t be little for long.” I could have throttled the man.

Lisa April 9, 2013 at 8:52 am

TRUTH. I love my kid and she’s a cool person, but sometimes she’s a jerk. Sometimes I’m a jerk, too. I don’t expect people to like when I’m being a jerk. I cherish the good moments and try to let go of the bad ones quickly. (Try! I TRY, but don’t always succeed!)

Ann Soutter April 9, 2013 at 9:27 am

I love your posts. I read them as a mother of a 15 year old, and smile as I remember the stages you are going through. Some of them I don’t miss a bit. I had the opportunity of working part time. When I was at work, all I wanted to do was be home with my little darling. When I was home, all I wanted was to be at work. I remember as he grew, I could sometimes put him in a time out, but also say that I needed the time out. There are times I have told him, don’t touch me, don’t bug, don’t ask anything of me for a bit. He smiles, but gets it.

Sarah April 9, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Yes! I agree completely. My oldest is about the same age as your son and some days lately have been VERY trying. I DON’T enjoy every day, nor do I expect to. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops and that’s the reality of parenting. I just try to appreciate the good days and take a deep breath at the end of the bad ones, reminding myself that not all days will be that way.

clara April 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm

A-PLUS YES.

..not to mention the danger of lying to yourself and others, including your children, about enjoying every moment: you could brainwash yourself, leading to you being the grandma telling your grown son about his kid, “Oh, sweetie, enjoy the moments while they last!” and then your grown son yelling at you.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks April 11, 2013 at 2:33 pm

This was a timely post, Ginger. We are dealing with a severe bout of attitude and world-ending meltdowns with our 2.5-year old. I had to put myself in a few of those parental timeouts to reload my aresenal of parenting approaches to the young and defiant. We’ve had a very stress-filled, sleepless house for the past week. I’m ready for this developmental/growth stage to hit already, so we can get back to the 95% of parenting that we love. Thank you for making me feel less alone during a time when we are feeling pretty darn isolated and helpless.

Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama April 12, 2013 at 6:22 am

Thanks for this honest post! I do find myself saying cherish THE moment because our children grow up so fast, but I definitely do NOT cherish EVERY moment. There are times that my daughters drive me to the brink, and I’m counting down the seconds until I can drop them off at daycare and go to work for some peace and quiet. I try to take it all in stride because as annoying and frustrating as baby and toddler problems can be, I fear they will pale in comparison to the drama my girls will put me through as tweens and teens!

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