Occasionally the things I write on here wander away from strictly museums-and-young children. Today is one of those days. This is something that has been on my mind for a few days now and I’m a little nervous about sharing it…but here goes.
It seemed like from the moment I found out I was pregnant, every media outlet was reminding me to CHERISH EVERY MOMENT and that THEY GROW UP SO FAST and IF YOU HAVE ANY NEGATIVE FEELINGS ABOUT MOTHERHOOD AT ALL YOU AREN’T WORTHY OF THOSE PRECIOUS GIFTS (ok, so maybe the last one wasn’t so much explicitly stated as implied…)
I always chafed slightly against the digital cross-stitch pillows, but I wasn’t sure why. Recently though, a new one has popped up on my Facebook feeds. The message on this one is “you never know when it will be the last time…” and goes on to list things like holding hands and bedtime stories.
That one made me mad. Not only does it (perhaps not on purpose) prey on the fear every parent has of losing their child, but it also makes you feel guilty for any negative feeling you have about parenthood. Oh be careful, don’t resent having to do X because it might be the LAST TIME. I love my children to pieces…but that doesn’t mean I always like what they are doing very much. All of those quotes, with the accompanying pictures of parents and children walking hand and hand across a beach, completely invalidate the very real feelings you may have the parenting is hard, that you might dislike some parts of it or just be plain tired.
That feeling is not new, I’ve seen other people write about the need to remember that you DON’T have to adore every moment of parenting (and ps, sometimes the dishes CAN’T wait…thank you anyway lady at the grocery store). However, the picture reminding me it might be “the last time” also brought up something else.
Why is it that all of those pictures and quotes treat those milestones as a loss? Each time a child STOPS doing something it is because they have STARTED doing something else. I feel like that is something to be celebrated, not mourned. When my son started preschool it seemed like I was supposed to be sad for the loss of my baby, but I was so excited for the adventures he was going to have. Don’t get me wrong, there are things that he no longer does that I miss so much, and I furtively look at the videos I took, but mostly I’m so excited by the person he is becoming.
Yes, when my children no longer hold my hand to cross the street, I will miss the feeling of their hand tucked in mine. When he pushes me away to “do it myself” it hurts a little. But, think what it means. It means that they have reached a level of independence that is exciting and new and they are ready for it.
So, whether you want to completely ignore those sweet images and flowery phrases, or use them to help you remember the positives when everything is going haywire, is totally up to you. Just try to also remember that you don’t have to mourn the next milestone as a loss, it is just the start of a brand new adventure.
Enjoy it all, and when you get beyond those milestones, there will be others, maybe even grandchildren and you can experience early childhood all over again.
Yep, that’s how I try to look at it . . . the start of a new phase, in an inevitable, natural and necessary process. If you dwell on the passing of the prior phase, it’s easy to have regrets, pangs of “loss,” etc., but you’re only doing that to yourself, and it’s natural, too. Stay positive, and focus on what’s next, even as we cherish and smile remembering what has been.