I love being a parent. My kids are awesome and cute and funny.
But they are also loud, dirty, and prone to destruction. They all have their own unique challenges that make me feel like a crazy person. For example, my son has only slept through the night a few times. He’s six. My oldest daughter has an abundance of sass that is often displayed with a stomp of her foot and a shrill “NO!” My sweet little baby wakes up with pee-soaked sheets at least once a week, even though we have tried every brand of diaper, including some of them wrapped around her twice. This parenting thing is hard.
But almost every time I am out with my three children, I hear the following phrase: “Oh, enjoy every moment. You will miss this.”
I know what they’re trying to say. But what it feels like is, “I enjoyed every moment, and if you don’t, you’re doing it wrong.”
I know that childhood is fleeting. Although it’s only been six years, I can barely remember my son’s early days. My chronic sleep deprivation has made my memory hazy. I see pictures of him, gummy grins and chubby cheeks, and my heart just squeezes. I miss that baby.
But I did not love every moment of his babyhood. There were times I wanted to run away from home. There were times I would have given my baby to a stranger if it meant I could have five minutes to myself. Breastfeeding was a painful nightmare, and I screamed when my son latched. He had blood in his spit up, and I was sure he was dying. He cried for eight hours straight one day, and I just held him and cried, too. None of this was fun. None of it was lovable. It sucked.
I also felt a profound amount of guilt that I wasn’t enjoying every moment. We had gone through fertility treatments and several miscarriages. I had prayed for this little baby for years and so had our dearest friends and family. So when I realized it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorn farts, I felt like I was doing something wrong. This wasn’t what I thought parenthood would be. I just wanted a fat little baby to love. Instead, I had a scrawny, screaming alien who I don’t even think liked me very much.
And yet I constantly heard: “Love every moment. Enjoy it. You’re so lucky.”
I didn’t feel lucky. I was miserable.
So, parents, I want to tell you something important. Are you ready?
You don’t have to love every moment.
You don’t even have to like every moment.
There are moments when you don’t know whether something is poop or chocolate and you just don’t want to play that game anymore. There are moments when you don’t remember what silence is like, and you think about locking yourself in a closet in the dark until you can hear your own thoughts. Sometimes your child will eat something so vile and disgusting that you aren’t sure that you will ever be able to kiss their sweet little mouth ever again. It’s OK. This is normal.
Instead of telling parents to love every moment, what if we started a new trend? What if we told mom and dad that it was OK to just get through the day? What if we let parents feel their feelings, good or bad, and let them know that we saw them trying?
When their child is screaming in the grocery store because they wanted a banana and you gave them one but they actually wanted a grape and how can you not know that, you monster?! What if we smiled and said, “I’ve been there. You’re doing a great job.”
What if, when we see a child with her shoes on the wrong feet and hair like a tornado styled it, we just said, “She’s so cute. I wish I could dress like that.”
What if, when a momma is struggling to feed her baby and is tired and worn, we just said, “You are taking such good care of that baby. He’s so lucky to have you.”
Parenting is so hard, and it is so full of guilt and anxiety. It is also a beautiful, incredible gift. My children are thriving, lovely, loud little people. I don’t love every moment, and that’s OK because there’s plenty to love in between.
When my oldest gives the best hugs and melts the world with his smile. When my girl sings at the top of her lungs and dances with her whole heart. When my baby wears all of her accessories at once and blows kisses with her tiny little hands. I love those moments.
The rest? Well, I won’t miss them. And that’s OK.