I was in a public parking lot, trying to get my starving, exhausted, tantrum-throwing kids into the car when a little old lady tottered up to me and said, “Enjoy it while they’re little! It goes by so fast!”
I looked up at her as I was karate chopping my son’s stiff-as-a-board body into his car seat and gave her a smile. A smile that said, “I want to strangle you.”
I wanted to strangle her because it’s true. It does go by so fast. And I know I should be enjoying every minute of it. BUT I CAN’T!
I can’t because raising young kids isn’t always enjoyable. Sometimes it is—there are precious moments of absolute parental bliss. Moments when my son places a chubby hand over my larger, dishwash-weary hand and asks me to play with him. Moments when my daughter blows me a kiss that I catch and tuck into my heart under my shirt. Moments when the three of us snuggle head-to-head-to-head reading a book.
But a lot of the time having young kids sucks. It’s relentless and boring and exhausting and infuriating. And the fact that I’m not loving every tantrum-filled, pooped-smeared, yogurt-coated, sleep-deprived moment makes me panic. Because it’s going by so fast.
The days of my children’s childhoods are slipping through my hands faster than E. coli-infested sand and I know I’m not enjoying it enough, lady in the parking lot, so please don’t remind me.
When I creep into my kids’ rooms at night and watch them sleep, my heart fills with love and peace … and regret. Regret that we didn’t all enjoy the day that just ended more.
I know one day the pain of it all will fade and I’ll look back with a rosy tinge and think to myself, “I really enjoyed when my kids were little. It all went by so fast.”
But the one thing I promise to never do, is stop a young mom in a parking lot and tell her to enjoy it. Tell her it all goes so fast.
Instead I’ll tell her that I know raising young kids is hard. I’ll tell her it’s OK to cry. It’s OK to scream. It’s OK to fall to pieces at 5pm when the kids are pushing her every last button. I’ll tell her to breathe. I’ll tell her to hide in the bathroom if she needs to. I’ll tell her to laugh at the insanity that is her life. And I’ll tell her to kiss her baby’s toes, not because they won’t be little forever, but because it will bring her a moment of joy in her otherwise insane, chaotic day.