The other day I read a blog post from a young mama who was tired of being told to enjoy her child now because they grow up too fast. I get it. She feels pressured to enjoy the spilled milk and the crying babies even though, as we all know, those aren’t always the fun parts of parenting. She also feels like the point of raising children is to RAISE them and that when we wax nostalgic about how great it is to have babies that we forget that having preteens and teenagers and yes, even adult children, is pretty great too.
I totally get where she’s coming from and she has a valid point. I know I’m guilty of saying this to some young mamas from time to time. From a grandma’s perspective, the charge to enjoy this time is a result of knowing too much. When you are in the trenches and you just can’t wait for naptime so you can sit down and finish the cup of coffee you started drinking four hours ago, it’s easy to forget that this doesn’t last forever. The difference in an old mom and a young mom is that you don’t have the advantage of hindsight. (Or achy joints or cataracts….but that’s another thing.)
I remember that one day it dawned on me that no one had cried that day. And another day, I held my son on my lap for the last time. And one day, I realized that my boy didn’t think all girls had cooties anymore. Eventually, that gave way to my boys being grown and married and raising children of their own. Maybe if I had realized that I was reading the last bedtime story, or rocking them to sleep for the last time I would have savored it a little more. But that’s just it. You don’t know. You don’t know that what seems like it will stretch out forever has an expiration date. You don’t know that the last time they creep into your bed after a scary nightmare is the LAST time.
When old mamas say things like this to young mamas, we aren’t trying to add more pressure to your already full life. We’re trying to tell you that someday this will all be a memory and you’ll look back at pictures of your baby and wonder if you actually did appreciate it enough. Does that mean that when you’re carrying a baby in a car seat and a diaper bag and three bags of groceries you should find the joy in the shooting pain in your back and gallon of orange juice you just dropped on the floor? Goodness no! We’re not crazy! But we do know that one day that will be a funny story and the awfulness of that moment will not always be so…well….awful.
The song goes “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” and old mamas can tell you it is true. Grown up children are their own kind of wonderful, but it is different when they are too old to gather up in your lap at the end of the day. I think that’s why being a grandma is so great. We have the advantage of perspective and we realize that childhood is such a short time. (We also have the advantage of putting off housework and chores until the kids go home—a luxury you don’t have as the mama.) I know for a fact that I appreciate the delightfulness of my grandchildren in a way that I just couldn’t appreciate in my children.
So when an old mama tells you to soak it up and enjoy it while it lasts, indulge us. We’ve been where you are now but maybe our glasses are tinged a little rosy. That must be the payoff for the achy joints and cataracts I was telling you about earlier….
Hi! I'm Janet and I've been the Director of the Before and After School and Smart Start Preschool Programs at the Troy Rec since 1994. My hubby and I have been married 30 years and we have two grown sons. Each of them is married and blessing us with grandchildren left and right. Life is good even when the nest is empty!