If I had to pick my least favorite piece of parenting advice, it would be this: “Enjoy it. It goes so fast.”
These words of wisdom, seemingly always delivered to me at the grocery store--while I’m wrangling juice boxes, an overstuffed shopping basket, and two lively girls who are begging for permission to avoid the chilly dairy aisle--by a random, wistful-looking woman anywhere from 10 to 30 years my senior, absolutely drive me crazy.
As I stand there, most likely unshowered, undoubtedly under-caffeinated for the challenges, and wearing one of my countless black tees (the better to camouflage that baby weight I have been meaning to lose since 2011), I just want to say, “I WISH.”
Because after a day of referring Beanie Boo crises (”I know you want to play with Bamboo, but he is your sister’s and she is allowed to say no. How about playing with one of your other 5.2 million stuffed animals? No? You don’t like any of them anymore? And you don’t want to play with them ever again? Well, that is a problem.”), cutting the crusts off the 251st peanut butter and jelly sandwich of 2016, and wondering how a child with a drawer full of clothes can’t find a single acceptable outfit to wear, I surely do wish time would speed up.
But of course the woman in the store doesn’t know that I’ve been up since 6 a.m., that I got up in the middle of the night to soothe a child frightened by a nightmare, and that I have a new appreciation for the “Calgon, take me away!” commercials from the 1970s that used to make my mother laugh.
All that woman sees is two girls, one little and one big, giggling at their own jokes and happily playing with their toys in the middle of the produce section—and likely a mom with a touch of frazzle about her.
And she doesn’t want me to let the frazzle make me miss those childhood moments that seem to last forever until the day when you realize they have vanished, without warning or fanfare.
I always want to tell that woman to direct her advice to some other parent—that I know kids grow up fast, that I quit my job to go freelance so I could find a better balance between work and motherhood, that my husband and I both co-oped in our girls’ preschool classrooms, and that I AM paying attention, all the way from the first “I need company!” bathroom request of the morning to the moment when I finally whisper good night and tiptoe out of my daughters’ darkened bedroom.
But as I flipped through folders of photos long forgotten on my hard drive, I realized tonight that woman in the store was right after all. Kids grow up right before your eyes—and yes, it does go so fast.