If you’re a parent, you have probably heard some version of this recently:
“Take some time to smell the roses.”
“Carpe Diem. Savor every moment.”
“It all goes so fast.”
As a mama to four little ones, I hear these a lot. It’s clear that conventional wisdom―especially conventional parenthood wisdom―would have us all slow down, drop everything (including and especially our smart phones) and soak up every finite moment of bliss-filled parent-dom before we blink and our children are grown and on their own and discussing which nursing home is the best fit (read: cheapest) to park us in.
In many ways it’s a sentiment I agree with, although you will be prying my smart phone out of my cold dead hands, sorry. In the interest of full disclosure I think I’ve even said these myself, or scrawled them on a baby shower card, some lovely wordsmith version of this crap like “enjoy every moment, it will be over before you know it...” or the always tasteful “the days might feel long but the years are fast.” And I need the reminder myself too: the more babies I’ve had the faster it has all sped by, and the general illusion that I have some control over such matters of physics like the passage of time is much appreciated, thank you very much.
There’s a problem with this though, and it’s not just that it can make me panicky and a little sweaty. Society doesn’t really MEAN it. They want you to slow down and savor and carpe diem except for if you are, say, in traffic in front of them. Or in line at the drive through. Or in the only family bathroom at Target. They would appreciate it if you please don’t let all that carpe-ing make you late for work, or late to get the kids to school, or late to pay the utility bill. And they are gonna judge you pretty harshly if you forget to brush your hair or accidentally wear tights as pants (again) because you were distracted by all the roses you were smelling. Trust me on this.
Because the thing is this: while you are busy desperately trying to savor every moment, life is going to keep going on. TIME is going to keep going on. The housework will pile up and tumbleweeds will blow through your house and then you will have to make the choice to either stop savoring long enough to run a vacuum through or learn how to savor the tumbleweeds, which is harder than it sounds. And you will end up knee-deep in laundry with an empty fridge, and realize sadly that your children don’t smell very much like roses at all when they have been wearing the same socks for a week and they’re hangry.
And there’s this too: there are things I simply cannot bring myself to savor, like night terrors or the diapers that overflowed and leaked toxic things out the corners onto every upholstered seat in my house before someone noticed. I will not miss scraping puke out of the edges of car seats with my fingernails or potty training or being WOKEN UP EVERY HOUR OF EVERY NIGHT BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT THEY ACTUALLY DO TO TORTURE PRISONERS IN SOME COUNTRIES.
Maybe all this pressure to slow down and appreciate every moment is just another form of the absurd expectations we put on ourselves, or on each other, or both.
Or maybe it’s just our insecurities about how yes, time is gonna pass and yes, things are going to change, and yes, that can be pretty freaking scary.
Because there are so many things I AM going to miss. Like how when I pick up my littles and they throw their arms around my neck and cling to me like a monkey to a tree. Or how when I walk in the door from work they run to me and their heads press right into the soft spot in my belly where they came from. Or how after I recover from the midnight shock of opening my eyes to see their wide-eyed outline staring at me in the dark, I move over and they climb into my bed and fall instantly asleep and I can align my breath with the soft sweet rhythm of their thumb-sucking and if only for a moment, everything is just exactly perfect.
Maybe we wouldn’t be so scared of everything changing if deep down we didn’t actually love everything right now the way it is so very much, tumbleweeds and all.
And if that ain’t the very definition of savor-ing the moment, my friends, then I don’t what is.