Picture it: grocery store checkout line, two weeks postpartum.
A mother stands bouncing and shushing her crying daughter. Her nose twitches as she smells the distinctly sweet aroma of newborn poop. She takes a deep breath and says a silent prayer, “I promise to put the cart neatly back in its corral if this poop will just stay contained inside the diaper. Amen.”
She feels the warm wetness on her arm, and knows she'll put the cart back anyhow because she’s not a monster. She lets out a tired and heavy sigh. As she's about to abandon her place in line to find the sketchy grocery store bathroom, an older woman gives her a knowing smile and says, “They grow up so fast. Savor every second.”
And that, readers, is the story of how I ended up being arrested for punching a stranger, knocking her back into the rows of candy bars and chewing gum.
Okay, not really. But it could have been me. It could have been any of us.
The sideline input by the armchair guidance counselors is meant to be helpful, but in the moment, it feels like a kick in the poop-filled diaper of life with small children. Let’s add a big dose of guilt to our shopping list as we fail to completely embrace the milk stains on our shirts, the mesh underwear (actually, I fully embraced the mesh underwear), or even the array of nice moments that do occasionally shift into focus.
I'm sure I'll look back longingly from my place on the nursing home couch, waiting for my ungrateful children to call me. I'll probably miss the days of smelling their delicious heads and snuggling with them, even at three in the morning. But I can almost guarantee that I'll never regret not embracing the moments that just fucking sucked.
Recently, I came across some advice both for empty-nester shopping alone in the store, and the cynical mother who just wishes her kid would scream at someone else for a little while:
Savor a moment today.
Reading that simple sentence felt like giving myself permission. Permission to see individual snippets of the day for how they feel as they're happening, not as advance penance for a wistful loneliness that may never come to pass. I'll let my future self hash it out, should she one day find herself with a deep yearning for cluster-feeding and colic.
There is no delight in many of the finer details of parenting. But there are moments of contentment – of beauty, of bliss – that make it worth it. Look for those. Cherry pick them out of the lineup of puke, tantrums, and thrown food. Savor one. Savor two, or three. But don’t – not for a second – feel as though you are obligated to savor them all.