Five years ago, I would have told you there’s nothing more irritating than the moment you’re struggling in public with one to four children and some stoic-looking human in her forties smiles gently, tilts her head to one side, and says, “Enjoy it while it lasts.”
Five years ago, I would want to say, “I have an idea. How about you go fuck yourself and then we’ll talk.”
But I’ve always had a bit of a patience problem. Nobody asks me for marital advice.
But, now that I’m an enlightened monk, I know that actually there is something WAY more irritating than the “wise elder woman” bestowing upon me the depth of her insight: It’s realizing she is right.
Look, she’s not right about telling a struggling, irritated mother to “enjoy every moment.” That’s a bullshit move no matter how you cut it. If you see a woman sweating her ass off in Disneyland with a baby in a carrier and a toddler trying to dive into a moat, FUCKING HELP HER, don’t advise her.
Nobody likes advisors.
But the “enjoy” thing? Sadly, I get where Captain Wisdom is coming from now. I always thought it was just trite nonsense thrown around by the socially inept to feel vaguely superior and profound. I always thought it was an underhanded insult, an unappreciated “learning moment.” Forever, fuck learning moments.
But my oldest kid finished middle school a couple days ago. She’s fifteen and will be in tenth grade (high school) next year. She wore nude pumps.
And my baby, my last baby, well, he turned three, the asshole. He turned three without my permission. He’s tall and talks incessantly and barely wants to nurse. YES I NURSE MY THREE-YEAR-OLD FIGHT ME.
And I am 38. My grandparents are gone now. Seven months ago, I lost my last two grandparents.
I feel, well, a little out there in the wind. A little untethered. My family is selling my grandparents’ home of 45 years, the one I played in with my fifteen thousand cousins, the one that smelled like my grandmother, my home, my history.
But mostly, the one that was simply always there.
Until it’s gone.
I didn’t ask for some “knowledge.” I didn’t ask for some “new perspective.” That shit was slammed into my brain against my will, and now I find myself remembering the days when my oldest kid seemed she would be a kid forever, and my second kid, Rocket, wasn’t pulling away, just a little, the way tweens do, as a tension constructs itself between us, a natural letting go, the way it’s “supposed to be.”
There is a letting go.
I didn’t ask to look back on the days when they were all little and I felt it would last forever, because I didn’t know yet that the day will come when your child no longer plays in the surf or builds sandcastles, but rather, sits on the blanket eating Doritos and complaining.
I didn’t know you don’t get 18 years of child. You get 10, 11, 12, maybe. In moments, you get maybe 12.
And then you get something else, and it’s gorgeous and fun and holy hell can we talk about how fun it is to mess with teenagers via text message?
But it isn’t the same. And I look at my little family and see that in three years, my oldest will leave, and my second oldest will be almost fifteen, and in three years, my family will be reformed, reorganized, without Ava, the one who used to run down the trail ahead of us, under the redwoods, while I wrangled her little brother and wished I could do something about boob sweat.
And some lady heard me snap at Ava as I walked, looked over at me and said, “Enjoy it while it lasts.”
I hated her then. I possibly hate her now, but still, I wonder if they say it because they fucked up, you know? Because we all fuck it up. And we forget the monotony, the boredom, the dragging days of uninteresting parental work.
We look back and wish we could see what we have when we have it, rather than when it’s gone. Why is life like that? Why can’t we see what we have in the moment it’s ours, when it seems so solid and permanent it will never fade, as opposed to achieving mad clarity at the very moment it’s rendered useless?
It isn’t useless, but I wish a little I would have known.
I’ll never be the woman correcting and counseling and gazing lovingly into the eyes of a tired and pissed-off mama. Shit, I AM STILL THE TIRED AND PISSED OFF MAMA.
But now when they say it, I feel it a little in my bones, a moment of reckoning, of redirection. A little nudge.
I hate it when the assholes are right.
And you know? Even though I’m all advanced and profound and shit, I STILL can’t wander around stoically adoring every moment with my kids. I don’t even try.
Instead, I put my book down a few minutes early each night, turn off the light, and pull my toddler against me, to bury my nose in his sweaty little neck and inhale the sweetness of life just as it is right now, and I feel it as far as anything has ever gone.
That’s enough, I think, for those of us on the ground.
Join me for the only craft-focused workshop I teach all year.
An 8-week workshop with only 6 people, beginning August 15.
AimeeWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 14:00
I almost lost my shit entirely when I read the line “There is a letting go”. You are so right. And I hate it.
AnneWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 14:04
I’m sorry but it’s an asshole move to say “Enjoy it while it lasts” to someone struggling with a toddler. By all means, enjoy the GOOD parts while they last. But when shit gets tough with small kids you have every reason to look forward to the time when they will not depend on you for their safety and every basic need. You can enjoy teenagers too, and 40 year olds. But you do not have to enjoy every fucking moment. That lady is still an asshole.
BethThursday, 22 June, 2017 at 4:55
Right ON. The “enjoy it – it doesn’t last” sentiment is appropriate only when it’s something a reasonable human being would enjoy. I do not miss the crap parts of my college age kids’ childhood. I may find humor in it now, but that’s simply not the same as enjoying or missing it.
NicoleWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 14:06
Fuck you, I’m crying. I love you. (Applies to: this post, all your writing, motherhood, and life in general.)
BarbWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 21:47
Dammit, ditto as I sit here crying and thinking of my six and four (& a half Mom!) year olds.
JennTuesday, 13 June, 2017 at 16:55
Yup, what she said! ^^
Stacey M EpsteinWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 14:09
My last living grandparent, the only one I knew, died in 2003, my dad died in 2005, and my mom died in January. That really shook me, so I know where you’re coming from, even though my kids are younger than yours. Her death put things into a totally different perspective.
I think I know why you just can’t enjoy it while you have, all the time though. For me, I can’t even read those articles that are always popping up in my facebook feed because they make me eternally sad. Being grateful for what I have because I’m always looking ahead to when I won’t have it is a terrible thing. I hope I can learn to be more zen and live in the moment and enjoy the moment just because it is my now, without forever worrying about when I won’t have that moment anymore. That’s why I hate those comments.
And I still yell at my kids a lot, too.
AshleyWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 14:30
Oh good god, I’m weeping. You captured what i am aching over every day lately … I guess there is comfort in knowing I have great company out there … I’m not alone in this letting go.
JenniferWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 14:31
Oh yes. Got me in the feels so bad this time. Been asked this week to go to my grandmothers house and pick out the heirlooms I would like to keep because it’s going into escrow. Been emotional all week!
MaryWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 14:33
Nobody with an ounce of sense “enjoys it” ALL while going through it. Those who do? Well, I teach their kids and those kids are fucking assholes. Those “love every moment” parents train their children to think nothing matters in the world but them.
So I think the solution might be: stop every once in a while and notice, in the madness that is motherhood and childhood, that it’s extraordinarily wonderful and amazing and you would not trade it for the world. Even if the next moment you are not feeling that way, AT ALL. You’re human.
Parents who are human make the best humans.
GloriaFriday, 9 June, 2017 at 16:40
“Parents who are human make the best humans.”
YES! A thousand times yes!
Cheryl M.Wednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 14:38
I had my first and only child the year I turned 39, so I’m turning 45 this year w/a 6-year-old. I had a hard time when he was a baby because of postpartum depression that went undiagnosed for awhile. And for the longest time I just wanted him to be the age he is now; I just didn’t enjoy the baby phase. And while I don’t necessarily want to go back there, I wish I could have savored it a little more. But even now, when he decided he wanted to take showers instead of baths, I was broken up and crying for days (that’s plural!). And he’s very recently started calling me “Mom” instead of “Mommy” or as he pronounced it “Maahhhmy.” Ugh. I hear you and understand.
DinaWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 14:48
Damn it…I’m ugly crying….right now…as I type this.
All the Love.
SherryWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 14:49
Well I’ll just be the most unpopular mom in the room and say I took those “enjoy it while it lasts” comments right straight to my heart. By which I mean they would actually make me stop, calm down, and appreciate the humour in the special kind of hell that was life with toddlers. It would honestly remind me to enjoy it while it lasted… I know. I’m an asshole.
That said, your post reminds me that not everyone sees life the same crazy-assed way I see it – so I’ll remember to never, ever say it to anyone else. Ever. That is my solemn vow. 😉
valerieWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 15:06
my son is 15 and an avid gamer. we moved two years ago to a house with only limited (expensive) wireless internet connection and since then my son has spent every weekend, every break, the vast majority of summer vacation with my mom and dad who live in town with unlimited data. if he isn’t in school, he is probably with my parents. i am grateful he has my parents home to go to, but i wasn’t ready for such an empty home at 38. probably cause i always wanted more kids but that hasn’t happened for reasons i suppose after 16 years i should accept. the past two years i’ve been fighting becoming bitter but i often find myself watching parents interact with their kids in public (mostly walmart) and think ‘enjoy it while it lasts’. i know i said that to myself like a mantra when my son was little, but somehow that isn’t any comfort now that its over. this one hit home, thank you.
Rose GilbertWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 15:37
Amen!! Unfortunately I’m one of those assholes ! My youngest two just graduated high school. I’ve been the ass hole telling all the young mothers I work with to suck up every minute cause it goes so away so quickly. I tell them to take care of /and time for them selves, but to also stop and just breath it in. We always mark the firsts , but never see the lasts coming. The last time they let me read them a book; the last time they snuggled in bed with me ; the last time they came running with a “mom look!” ; the last time I could sit and just watch them playing and having fun .0, uninhibited without being all worried about clothes /hair//what they looked like/what other people think.
It’s amazing and fascinating to watch the kids turn into people but man it’s hard too.
And a warning – the kid /teen years are hard but the almost adult to adult? Wow! We worrk THIER whole lives turning them into independent adults , but the first time they call SMEONE ELSE when they have a problem/ issue they need help with? Man that is a lighting bolt of holy shit – they are really grown.
Christina ContriWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 21:19
“We always mark the firsts , but never see the lasts coming.”
That. Right there.
Christina STuesday, 11 July, 2017 at 11:00
Exactly. Hit me square. My boys are 14 and 11.
TraceyWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 15:41
Hello from Australia.
I had a real shit night last night and this morning I am still feeling and hurting. A depressed husband and a crazed toddler who flat out refused to go to bed. There was yelling, screaming and crying and my toddler even smacked me in the face with a lego brick. Last night truly broke me and yet it isn’t the first time it has been like this and I know it won’t be the last. Even still I am fragile and don’t know how to do this. In the depth of my own personal misery, I needed to read this. Thank you for your words, wisdom and for saying it’s okay.
Lea BurnidgeWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 16:19
I hate that you make me Cry every time!!!! Gosh Damn you!
Oh how I know this all to well… I have a 25 year old and a 8 year old! I have No Freaking idea how that happened? Well maybe I have a little ; )~
I try to enjoy it but as I sit and type I am secretly wishing that it was bedtime!!!!! For both myself and my 8 yr old ????
I Love You and NEVER EVER STOP Being you!!!
TeresaWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 17:00
I just love that your child is named Rocket. And this post gave me a little tear. Because I only have one child and this is it. Though I don’t think he’ll ever be wearing nude pumps. But I’m sure one day he’ll have a beard and I can’t handle that, please pour me a glass of wine.
RenataWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 17:31
Youngest went off to college last September. After months of wallowing, put my big girl pants on and am heading to grad school in the fall. Life must go on, with intermittent tears and a lot of great memories. And they *do* come home, and they *do* still need us (in new & more complex ways). Oh, but I miss those babies!
LydiaWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 17:42
My kids are 6 months and 4 and every day I lose my shit at least once (usually on the four year old, poor little guy), usually more. Every night after both kids are asleep, I creep in and look at their sweet sleepy faces and promise that I will do better tomorrow. I won’t be so angry, I’ll spend more time with them and less time with my book or my phone, and that I will try my best to savour every moment, even the shitty ones. Every. Day. I’m still waiting for the day when I actually manage it.
Catherine GillespieWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 18:07
My two oldest sons are out living with their girlfriends but my 20 year old son is still at home. I kiss him goodnight every night because I know how little time there is left for me to do that.
I don’t miss the exhaustion, the shouting, the crap – but oh how I miss their small hands and perfect necks. I miss them telling me everything that was happening in their lives.
I’d never tell a mother of young children to enjoy it – we have to learn ourselves how fleeting it all is
Maureen WanketWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 18:20
Truest. Also, college is an asshole that steals your kids. Heads up.
LSGWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 18:20
I still remember this “last” moment like it’s branded on my brain. A very ordinary/not at all ordinary because I realized what it meant-moment. We were crossing the busy main street of our town, my nine year-old son and I. I’d been a single parent for six and half years at that point and we were close. Singing Beatles songs in the car close. Finishing each other’s jokes close. Anyway, I reached down and took his hand to cross the street, just as I had a thousand times since he’d learned to walk. And he–ever so slowly and gently and without saying a word–disengaged his hand from mine. I started to reach for his hand again, a kind of automatic Mom protectiveness. But then this thought kind of ambushed me: “He’s old enough. He’s probably been old enough for a while but didn’t want to hurt my feelings.” That hot hazy June day became crystal clear for a minute. And we crossed that street into another country, one where he would never need me again in quite the same way.
Karen Loopman-DavisWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 19:09
My kids are 14 months apart on purpose. My girls are 13 and 14 now and only a year ago did it occur to me that no one ever says that when your kids are that close you get one chance. I used to joke that having kids far apart is like getting to the end of a marathon and having someone say nope, Go back and start over. I don’t want to start over BUT I’m not ready to get to the end, either. Like stereotypes, cliches have some truth in them – when parenting, the days are long but the years are short.
AprilWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 20:50
Here is what I struggle with, though: I was in a supermarket the other day and I heard and saw a mother, through gritted teeth, say to her adolescent son “get your ass out of this store before I smack the shit out of you.” All of my instincts kicked in–first for the kid, having been through a childhood of having the shit smacked out of me, then for the mom because I have been in a store with my kids when they’re acting like complete shits and the only thing that you can do is threaten violence upon their bodies. I wanted to go to that boy shuffling around outside the store and tell him that things get better but I couldn’t because that’s kind of weird. I wanted to go to that woman and commiserate and ask her if there was some way that I could help. But I didn’t because when I have done that in the past, women have just briskly told me that no, they don’t need me and averted their eyes and brushed me off. I end up standing there feeling like a dolt for reaching out. And I know, the point of doing it is to help someone, not to make myself feel good, but shit, I am just a stupid lonely person on the planet and I don’t like to feel like a dolt! Do I just keep doing this? I didn’t offer condescending wisdom, I said how I’ve been there and I said how kids can be shits and etc. and etc. and the women usually look at me like I am a space alien with my boobs hanging out. What is going on?
EvelynWednesday, 7 June, 2017 at 22:00
Triplets, 16 years old. One parent can’t wait for them to go off to college, and one (me) hates that they go to bed before me. They fight, they laugh, they plot, they complain, and they will go to the ends of the earth to do something to make me smile. I’d never change it for the world! So yes, enjoy it, every stinky load if laundry, every smelly pair of shoes, every outgrown article of clothing. It’s doesn’t last, and you’ll miss it when it’s gone!
ScottieThursday, 8 June, 2017 at 3:27
So glad you added the adorable pictures because crying at 6:30AM wasn’t how I was expecting to start my day. I love the lessons I learn from you- thank you.
MarselleThursday, 8 June, 2017 at 4:09
You are just awesome, your writing hits deep here, every time. THANK YOU XX
DanielleThursday, 8 June, 2017 at 6:27
ALL. OF. THIS. We have six children. Our eldesut is now in 11th grade, our elder daughter was in her first play, our baby girl just finished kindergarten, and our youngest turned 3 a few months ago. I have been reeling all year! It is comforting to know that other moms struggle with balancing pissed and grateful simultaneously.
renegademamaThursday, 8 June, 2017 at 9:30
“Balancing pissed and grateful simultaneously.” EXACTLY THIS.
Madelief BechererThursday, 8 June, 2017 at 7:01
The shit of it all is that I can have all this profound wisdom, and know that the asshole was right as I also watch my oldest graduate from middle school…..yet I can’t seem to slow down and enjoy the moments with my 5 year old. My patience is shot, I give less shits about bedtimes and vegetables….and I still feel like the little one is getting the short end of the stick. The snuggles and adoration she gets doesn’t seem good enough compared to what the 2 older girls got. But then again, our memories are good at remembering the golden moments and not the shit. Ah, the conflicting realities of motherhood can go ahead and bite me!
erin kingenThursday, 8 June, 2017 at 13:31
Damnit. Love your writing. I know all so well about the ‘letting go’. It was the hardest part of parenting yet. My kids are 19, 18 and 16. I haven’t quite let go of the youngest yet…he’ll be the hardest. BUT….this stage of parenting is definitely fun. Different but fun…in a weird, drink-a-beer-with-your-kid sort of way (don’t judge me, i know they’re not 21!) Its so hard, and i wish in so many ways i could go back to when they needed me more. Its just different ways of needing me now. Needing me to buy beer, or advice on boys, or bosses or actual life stuff. Parenting is fucking awesome.
RimaThursday, 8 June, 2017 at 13:41
Your writing – it makes us all feel so very very much. Whether it be anger or sadness or sheer joy! This post made me cry cos I hated my son when he was little and feel the same for my daughter now. Different struggles come with different age but so many times I just want to fast forward everything!
Re the pic of the kids – Georgia and Arlo steal the show. Pants in his pockets!! My goodness!
DianeThursday, 8 June, 2017 at 14:09
Wasn’t it yesterday that I was changing his diaper?
And now he says he is 57!
How did that happen?
Cara Lyn GiovannielloThursday, 8 June, 2017 at 14:44
This one obviously gets me. I’ll keep these truths in my mind in the coming year, thanks for reading my mind and being my homie. x
EllenThursday, 8 June, 2017 at 17:52
You make me feel like I’ve done the right thing. My last grandparent died two years ago, when my little one was five days old. A year later we moved back to my home town having bought my grandparents house, where they lived for seventy five years. There is a very special feeling when you put your five year old to bed in the room that your own father slept in when he was a five year old. Lots of family said we were crazy, and there was too much work needed, but I’m not regretting it.
CaraThursday, 8 June, 2017 at 18:57
The part about your Grandparents got me. I just assume mine will always be there for me and the reality is, in 10 years time, they probably won’t. The house they’ve lived in since my Mum was a kid will be sold and nothing will ever be the same again. Just the thought has me in tears.
Sharon WarrickFriday, 9 June, 2017 at 6:22
You would not believe that, while reading this blog entry — THIS one — Pandora chooses at this moment to start blaring Dan Fogelberg’s “Windows and Walls.” :O
Anyway, I loved this one, as I love them all. 🙂
KellySaturday, 10 June, 2017 at 4:45
You are so good at writing-what a gift you have to express what we all think, some of us without even realising it, so eloquently and passionately in words. i love your blog. I loved your photos-thanks for sharing. Your kids are beautiful and your love for them even more so.
TarahSaturday, 10 June, 2017 at 9:44
I love your posts. Seriously. Whenever I need a dose of awesome on the internet (which is hard to come by) you never disappoint. Thank you.
KateSunday, 11 June, 2017 at 14:33
I’m feeling this too. Mom of five, littlest is not a baby…Same same same…well written.
Being 38, though, I call it thirty-great!!
Layla Habibi-OlberdingTuesday, 13 June, 2017 at 6:16
This gave me the feels. My family has just closed the door on the baby years and I wrote about it recently. http://www.pinkskyandpuddles.com/2017/06/saying-goodbye-to-baby-years.html?m=1
CatherineWednesday, 26 July, 2017 at 14:06
This!!! “YES I NURSE MY THREE-YEAR-OLD FIGHT ME.” Love your blog.
LeahFriday, 29 June, 2018 at 3:08
I don’t want to change diapers and clean up constantly, only to never have anything be clean and be totally exhausted yet accomplish nothing again. But to have five minutes of the toddler chatter or young curiosity or early morning snuggles would be magic. I love knowing that I have three people who are not total asshats in the world, with some goodness and substance that just may make their speck of influence on the world something good. Thank you for this piece that captures how I feel daily about being achingly proud of and happy with my kids then assaulted with the ache of how little time I have left before they’re gone!