I have a 5 and 3 year old and I really freaking hate when people tell me how I’ll “miss these days” or to “cherish these days while they’re little.” It’s not so much the phrase itself that I hate. It’s the timing people choose to say it.
You know how toddlers can be a handful and everyone has those days where you want to sell them on craigslist, right? So, naturally you seek out someone, anyone, to commiserate with for just a moment, hoping they will understand you’ve had a crappy day and you just need to blow off some steam. You hope they will just listen and give the tiniest bit of sympathy or empathy, knowing you do actually love your kids and just need to rant for a hot second. But then Miss Out-Of-Touch-With-Reality just HAS to pipe in with the dreaded, “Oh but someday your kids will be grown up and you’ll miss these days! Cherish these moments while you can!”
My eyes cannot roll hard enough when I hear this (or read it in the comments on someone’s Facebook post). I have a question for anyone who has ever dared to say this, or something remotely similar, to a mother who is at her wits end: WHY? Why do you feel the need to point that out? We already get it—you miss your kids being little, teenagers and adult children have harder problems you can’t just kiss or cuddle away, and you are trying to remind us to enjoy them while they are tiny. But guess what? We usually don’t need reminding; especially not in the moment that our frustrations are at a peak.
When a mother dares to express her real feelings during a moment of weakness and annoyance, proclaiming how hard something is or how crazy she feels, she’s not looking to be corrected or be told she should miss this someday. She’s not looking for any wise old hens to come clucking at her with tales of someday regretting her very real feelings right now. She’s looking for people to just let her know it’ll get better or that they’ve been there, too. Because this frazzled mother is already in a crazed state. She already feels bad for how little patience she has had that day and is probably recovering from a foot to the mouth or an elbow to the boob. She just needs a second to complain and then will jump right back in. So when someone gives the phrase, “someday you’ll miss this,” it’s ill timed, at best.
Don’t get me wrong, this reminder that some day we will miss our kids being little can be given, eventually—just not in the mother’s moment of struggle. Because you’re right, clucking hens. Someday the kids won’t play with us, they won’t be close enough to accidentally crush our toes, and they won’t call home as often as we’d like. Someday, their troubles will be unsolvable by mom or dad. And we will miss many parts of toddlerhood. In the right context, your unsolicited warning will be received and even discussed further.
But there’s one more important thing to remember if you’re going to dare tell a mom of little’s to “cherish every moment:” make sure you understand she will not miss EVERY single moment. An at-wits-end mother won’t miss the pain she feels when her eye gets poked so hard she sees black spots for 5 minutes. She won’t miss the 2 AM diaper explosions. Or colic screams that she can’t soothe. The major tantrums her 3 year old throws where he stomps on her foot and runs away in a crowded parking lot while judgy-McJudgers watch without helping is not something she will look back on and cherish. Don’t worry; when she’s in her right mind, she will be able to understand you probably mean you’ll miss the GOOD stuff. But when she’s venting, she doesn’t need to hear something that sounds a bit condescending.
All she needs, and all you have to say, is a simple,
“Yeah that sounds awful, I’m sorry!”
“Man, you go girl! Hang in there!”
“You’re still a great mom. This will pass!”
“Haha I totally know how you feel. It’s the worst!”
“That happened to me recently. This is how I got through it…”
Or best yet:
“You sound like you’ve had a rough day. I’m sending pizza to your house right now!”