I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook on my phone with one hand and holding Poppy to my breast with the other arm. She ate and growled simultaneously, as she tends to do first thing in the morning. There was dried spit-up on my neck, chest, and pillow. I hadn't had a chance to do laundry the day before so I was wearing a nursing bra that smelled of sweat and cheese. Hot weather, or her current developmental stage, or the alignment of the planets had caused Poppy to cluster feed off and on all night. The longest stretch of sleep I'd managed was just shy of two hours. My nerves were raw from lack of sleep and too much touch.
And then a meme caught my eye. You know the one. The generic cute baby and frilly font ordering the reader to pay attention and cherish every moment (actually, this particular one told me to "relish the charms of the present," which, really? Really. Barf.).
Last night I half-sprinted the length of a baseball diamond, pushing Poppy in the stroller over roots, through sand and grass, and then pulled a muscle holding the heavy, metal door open with my back while I wrestled the stroller over the stoop and into the dirty, public park bathroom. I coached Grady through a particularly difficult poop while sweating in the sweltering, malodorous stall, and then wiped his bum while swatting flies and screeching "don't touch the floor! Don't touch anything! Hold onto your ankles!" at top volume.
There were no charms to relish. I did not cherish every moment.
Why do we do this? Why do we place such high expectations on parents (this situation isn't unique to mothers, though I do think we bear the brunt of this particular scenario)? Admitting that this season of life is challenging, not loving every moment with my five-week-old and my almost-five-year-old, not relishing the charms of the present, doesn't mean I love my kids any less or I'm not endlessly grateful I get to be their mom. I know it's okay to grit my teeth and just get through one more two-hour bedtime routine, one more poop doula session, one more load of laundry laden with spit-up. But I feel like an ingrate whenever I'm told I should be cherishing my blessings. It kicks off a spiral of "do I love my kids enough? Am I loving them right? Do they feel loved and secure?" Which sounds ridiculous, I know. A stupid internet meme should not make me question my abilities as a parent or as a person. But guess what? Hormones? Make me ridiculous sometimes. And I'm guessing they make someone you love ridiculous sometimes too. So instead of telling parents to cherish every moment, why not ask them if the good times are outweighing the bad times? Ask them how you can make life easier. Ask what you can do, specifically, to help them enjoy this difficult / beautiful / demanding / ecstatic /seemingly unending / too short period of their life. And then do it.