On Wrestling Time

Dear Moms,

First off, you can relax because this is not another voice telling you to “soak in every moment” or echoing the sentiment  “enjoy it because one day you will miss this”. You no doubt have plenty of those voices clamoring around you, even as you wipe the bums and pick up the toys and break up with petty fights and cry in the bathroom from shear exhaustion with milk stains on your shirt while a small human sticks their tiny fingers under the door asking if you’re in there. 

No, this is me saying that you can’t possibly handle that task because you are not a human sponge (though you may feel like it at times). So let it go.

I once read a blog about a mom who was given a jar of pennies to represent every week she had left with her child until they turned 18. She was to remove a penny a week, placing it in a separate jar, to be able to visibly see how time is short and we have to make the most of it.

What in the bucket-full-of-mom-guilt kind of nonsense is this? If there is one thing moms DON’T need, it’s another reminder that time is fleeting and our kids are growing faster than the speed of our monthly shoe budget. Thanks-but-no-thanks.

But back then as a new mom, I bought into it, hook, line, and sinker. I spent the better part of a decade (I’m 12 in parent years) trying to race time and wrestle with reality. I tried to “enjoy it all”, despite exhaustion or fatigue or completely losing myself because I didn’t want to “miss out on anything because I can’t get it back”. But here’s the thing about time: it doesn’t care about pennies in a jar. It doesn’t give two dirty diapers about whether we are trying to hold on tightly to each moment, it’s going to slip through our fingers regardless.

Here’s what I learned after a decade of self-imposed, guilt-based-parenting: I tried really hard to:

Savor the moment and
Soak it all in and 
Be present and
Enjoy the little things and
Let go of the small stuff and
{insert unsolicited comment from lady at the grocery store here}

And guess what: it is STILL sad (hard? Surreal? Bittersweet?) to see your kids growing up. There is STILL an ache when I see a tiny baby stretching their little bones after waking from another nap. There is STILL a little twinge of heartache when a toddler says their little tongue-tied words, asking mama for a snack at the playground.

It’s strange to be the one with the kids old enough to cut grass and babysit for friends. There is a cloud of nostalgia over the Facebook memories reel that pops up unsolicited to remind me of days that will never be again. There is an “I remember when” on the tip of my tongue when I’m around friends with littles. 

And you know what else? My kids are “middles” at 9, 12, and 15 and wouldn’t you know that even now I have people saying, “Oh, I remember that age… little Johnny used to…”

What does that tell me? It tells me that this nostalgia, this reminiscing, is not something to try to outsmart. At every stage and every age, there will be someone who “remembers when” with their own kid. They will tell you that they wish they could go back for “just one day” to those years of this and that. 

It’s not like if you succeed at “soaking up” every “look at this, mom!” thrown your way and if you can just embrace every temper tantrum as the child just “finding their voice” you can some how be immune to the ache of days gone by once they are grown. 

You can’t. 

Even if you switch pennies between mason jars faithfully for the 936 weeks between birth and that magical 18 everyone talks about, you’re still going to weep in the driveway when they head off into the sunset of adulthood.

You won’t get a trophy in exchange for the filled mason jar. What you will have is $9.36 to loan your third born for gas money as they, too, scamper off with friends, leaving you once again “remembering when”.

I decided to do something a little different. Something perhaps unorthodox. I decided to embrace time, because honestly fighting it is exhausting. 

When that nostalgia hits, I lean into it. When the memories pile up and threaten to suffocate me with their relentless images of squishy cheeks and tiny toes, I let the tears fall where they must and laugh about the silly videos and I am thankful for the privilege to look at these tangible memories to begin with. 

We can’t stop time. We can’t possibly carry every memory with us. We get tired and irritable and need some “alone time” and sometimes we just don’t want to “watch this” one more time for the love of all things holy!

Instead we can embrace it as part of this journey we are on with all its highs and lows and the complexities of the human heart and our finite inability to possibly “enjoy every second”. We can let go of the ridiculous mom-guilt that plagues are days and steals our humanity. And we can listen to those who are further on this path when they reminisce, just wanting to share a glimpse into that bittersweet parenting journey and how far they’ve come, knowing good and well that will be us one day.

Stop wrestling time, asking it to slow down or speed up or counting it as if it can be contained. Just live today as imperfectly and thankfully as you can, mama.

You’re doing great.

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