Moms of small children, how many times have you been told by well-meaning older moms that “these days are the best days of your life” while waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store? They may even add “these days are going to go by so fast and you are going to wish your kids were little again.”
Okay, I have only been a parent for about a decade, so I am not going to profess to know precisely how to quantify the difficulty in parenting children at each and every age, but I do know this. As a species, we humans are pretty shitty at living in the moment. I mean, despite having this big, beautiful human brain, we totally suck at this.
The older mom really wishes she had been more present and in the moment when her children were young. She wants to impart her wisdom on the younger mom and help her live more in the moment so the younger mom can enjoy more of the toddler days than she did. But, this comment does not help. It actually makes it worse.
The younger mom probably has something running like this through her head. “Uh, thanks, lady. I have shit on my shirt; I hope you don’t notice. Is this really as good as it gets? Really?? Did you hear my kids screaming in Aisle 3? Do you see there is a whole package of powdered donuts open in my cart? My children’s mouths are full. That is why they are currently being quiet. And is parenting teenagers really THAT much harder than THIS??”
Instead of helping the young mom develop some present moment awareness we have possibly helped her develop some serious anxiety about how much harder parenting is going to get and some serious shame about not enjoying these, “the best days of her life.”
I don’t know about you, but I am not exactly my best self when I am feeling shameful. I am actually pretty close to the worst version of myself and the worst version of myself reminds me of the clown from Stephen King’s “It.” Utterly terrifying.
Parenting is hard, like continuously hard. But it’s awesome, like continuously awesome at the same time, but the awesome bits are usually very quick and the tantrums are so.very.long.
A friend asked me a few weeks after her son’s third birthday when did I notice my boys shift out of the “Terrible Two’s.” She meant, “Like when is this going to get easier??
My eyes got wide. I stayed silent for a moment, then two. “Do you want the truth?” I said.
She gave me a look that I took to mean I guess I want to hear the truth. Here is what I told her.
Every age has it’s amazing parts (let’s call these the “blessings”) and every age has it’s freakin’ unbelievably crappy parts (let’s call these the “challenges”).
Most of us are way better at focusing on and magnifying our challenges than focusing on and magnifying our blessings.
If we want to help young moms enjoy the blessings of parenthood let’s try this approach.
Admit that there are big challenges. “I remember how hard it was some days when my kids were little.”
Give her some hope. “Some things definitely get easier.”
And tell her she’s awesome. “You are doing a really great job.”
And never, ever mention the poop on her shirt.
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