“You HAVE to babywear or your child won’t learn to bond properly and will never know how to love!”
“Let the baby cry itself to sleep or it won’t learn to sleep ever in its entire life!”
“If you use anything other than all organic everything, you’re basically a monster.”
When you’re a new mom, there is So.Much.Advice.
It seems like the most common piece of advice I’ve received as a mother has been something along the lines of “Treasure every moment”. Heard that one, too? Whether it’s from the lactation consultant at the hospital right as I struggled with the torture that was breastfeeding, the grocery store clerk who gets to witness every glorious checkout line argument over gum purchases, or my own father, the resounding feeling among people who have been there is that childhood simply goes so quickly. And I agree, it does! When I sit with my daughter as she practices reading, I can hardly believe this is the child that just a few years ago was saying her first words.
I’ve made a conscious effort – from the very first minutes of being a mom – to not wish away time. I’ve postponed bedtime because I couldn’t refuse the request to read another story. I stay up too late myself because I’m looking back on the many (SO MANY) pictures I’ve taken to document the moments of our lives; the big ones like walking for the first time, and the small ones like a Tuesday evening walking around Lowe’s. I snuggle fiercely at 2:30 am even though I’m so darn tired because my three-year-old STILL doesn’t sleep through the night. It feels like I’m treasuring every moment… but here’s my problem.
Time isn’t slowing down. I’m reveling, savoring, treasuring, soaking it all in….whatever you want to call it, but these children are still growing up just as quickly. Wasn’t this whole growing up thing supposed to be postponed a bit if I was doing a good job of “treasuring”? If I watched them every second of the adorable, squishy, precocious two-year-old phase, shouldn’t I have my fill and be ready to move on to three without a wave of sadness at the change? That was sort of the impression I got. My friends who admittedly dash out of the house at any opportunity to get out without the kids, their kids seem to be growing at the same rate as my little darlings. In fact, the more I look back at pictures, clear evidence of how sweet and small my kids were even 5 weeks ago, the harder it is to let go of that time and appreciate where we are now. Where is the justness, where is the true value in loving every second of motherhood? Because I am certain that I have missed personal opportunities while I’ve been so busy treasuring the moments, and I don’t regret that, but I also am realizing that I can’t get my own time back, either. Time just can’t be stopped. Shocker, right???
So I’ve ditched the treasuring. Instead, I’ve decided to be present. In whatever is happening. Whether we’re swinging in the backyard, or I’m out with friends for post-bedtime drinks and snacks – fully participating in life instead of trying to memorize every detail, photograph every blissful second is the new name of my game. I’ve been scared to miss an instant of their lives, but the kids will be fine(better off even) if I let them play on their own while I have a conversation with my mom, and they’ll enjoy the sitter while my husband and I take time to go out on our own.
Likewise, if I let them wear their crazy cheetah print leggings and favorite shirts to the zoo instead of my carefully chosen matching outfits that will photograph well-you know, for the pictures that I will post on Facebook but inevitably forget to print. They are immeasurably happier and our morning goes more smoothly. There will be particular moments that deserve treasuring, of course – that first day of kindergarten this fall is already circled on our calendar – and I’ll document it with too many pictures and probably a video or four. But for me, treasuring has turned in to me holding on too tightly, suffocating myself while trying to control things that are simply uncontrollable.
So, when I dole out unwanted advice to the special moms and dads in my life, I will encourage them to be present as much as they can, because something things will end too quickly no matter how much treasuring we do.