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.
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