This is a submission in our monthly contest. November’s theme is Gratitude. Enjoy this time! Wait … THIS time? You mean like, right now? This is what I’m thinking as I sleepily stumble back into my almost three-year-old's room for the second time tonight, at some ungodly hour, to put his blanket back on – my eyes barely open, my feet instinctively taking ninja-like steps over the creaky spots in the floor so I don’t wake my daughter. People seem to offer this sage advice to me at every turn – the older couple at the restaurant, my cousin with school-aged kids. It’s like the latest slogan t-shirt on Instagram that I can’t escape – black velvet letters in that retro font. Oooooh, you meant THIS time, I think as I’m speeding from the farthest end of Target to their family restroom with a cart full of stuff and both my kids because my newly potty-trained son says he has to "go potty RIGHT NOW." I try to muster up all the joy I can while I bust out the travel potty seat, throw him on it and attempt to ignore my gag reflex as my 18-month-old daughter walks around the restroom touching EV.ERY.THING. See, the thing is, when I hear people utter those words, I do this immediate translation in my head so that what I actually hear them saying is "This time is so easy!" They must be crazy, I think. This is so hard. How could it get any harder? I mean if this is the pinnacle of ease in my child-rearing journey, I may not make it. What I want them to say sounds something more like "It’ll get easier!" Or maybe "Hang in there!" Something, anything that shows they understand that the struggle is real. I should stop here and say that contrary to what the above may imply, I love being a mom. Like all the heart-eyed emojis LOVE. And my rational, non-sleep-deprived mind knows with all certainty that I will look back at this time when my kids are teenagers and long to have them call for me, to need me, to be the center of their universe. There are so many moments of pure joy during this time – my daughter whispering "I love you mama" while I’m rocking her to sleep, my son singing Bob Marley in the backseat, the feeling I get when the four of us are out together and there is nowhere else in the world I’d rather be or people I’d rather be with. So when that stranger in the grocery store smiles at my daughter and utters those words, my rational mind (or what’s left of it) knows what she means. I want to say the same thing to people with one child who don’t yet know what it feels like to have to divide themselves – their patience, their time. But I can’t help to think when I hear it, that I must be doing something wrong. Why do I lose my patience so often? Why do I count down to bedtime? Why do I hide in my closet with a glass of wine while I scroll through Instagram (okay that never actually happened, but it has crossed my mind)? Why aren’t I enjoying every dang second?! It’s passing me by and I’m not appreciating it! Pressure. Guilt. More Guilt. Do those people have any idea the turmoil they’re causing me when they say those three little words???? Of course not. They just know all too well that with the next stage, comes an entirely new set of struggles. The things that exhaust and overwhelm me today, will likely be a hazy memory six months from now (like that time I’m pretty sure I cried over which crib mattress to put on my registry). And in their place will be new worries and challenges. New questions with no good answers, new debates on the right thing to say or do. But with all of that will also come new joys and accomplishments. New physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. New discoveries and the ever unfolding realization that we’re right where we need to be. So I vow to stop this fruitless quest for the holy grail of childhood phases. Stop feeding the idea that once this stage passes, it will get easier or better, or less busy. Because by doing that, I’m not only setting myself up for disappointment, I’m focusing so much on the hard stuff that I’m not letting the really good stuff sink in. Enjoy this time doesn’t mean it’s not hard. It means appreciate the good, lean into what’s uncomfortable or challenging. It will pass. It will all pass. So now when someone says "Enjoy this time," I will hear something else entirely – be present, be grateful, be patient. Not just with my children, but with myself.