My son had the snottiest of colds, and most of it was snail-trailing over my sweater, which, at some point that morning, I’d given up trying to keep clean and resigned myself to being a walking Kleenex. But we had errands to run so, strapping him to me in the Ergo, I scraped back my unwashed hair and headed to Walmart.
As I jigged and rocked my way around the store, trying to soothe my cranky boy, and occasionally touching my lips to his forehead to check for a fever, one of the staff smiled at us. I smiled back (although it was probably more of a grimace).
“These are the best days of your life,” he said to me.
I held the smile and thought, “Oh dear.” Because if that was one of my life’s best days, I’m in trouble.
It happened again on Facebook. In a moment of claustrophobic desperation, I posted to ask for tips on how to stand upright and walk across a room when my toddler screams and lunges for my legs the moment I dare to put a couple feet in between us. Cooking dinner had become virtually impossible, and my introvert soul was screaming out for space and quiet. I’d been hoping for a top tip, like, “Give him a teaspoon of apple juice and turn him around three times while hopping on one leg and he will play alone for 40 minutes.”
Instead, the majority of my friends, whose children are a year or so ahead of mine, suggested ways I could cook while holding him. Or have him “help” me. Not the magic trick I’d been hoping for, but they understood the feelings of suffocation. A few older friends told me to, “Cherish these moments, they’ll be grown before you know it.” There I was, considering whether peeling off my skin and leaving it in a puddle on the floor was an option, and instead they suggested I should cherish the moment. Revel in the claustrophobia. Soak up the panicked sensory overload.
Many a post has been written about how infuriating these comments can be. Some hilarious and some heartfelt. And they are all right. And when I hear from strangers, who know nothing about my life or day or mental health, that I should embrace the moment (when really one glance could tell you I need to embrace a shower and a 10-hour nap), I want to kick them in the teeth. But when it’s coming from friends who know and love me, I have to wonder if they really are tone deaf or if there’s something else they’re trying to tell me.
It’s easy to just roll our collective eyes at these comments. To think they’ve forgotten just how desperate it can get. But I wonder if we should try and dig a little deeper into what they’re saying.
Maybe the “cherish the moment” comments are meant to gently guide us to lift our eyes from a floor littered with tiny bites of apple (because he loves apples and they keep him quiet, but he never actually swallows any) and up to the fact that these are the only days in our lives where we literally get to bear witness to daily miracles.
Maybe they’re hoping we will be able to force through the exhausted brown fog that surrounds us and marvel for a moment at how in a year these beasts of ours have gone from total dependency to wanting — needing — to do EVERYTHING on their own, by themselves, no matter how excruciatingly long it takes. Possibly with hindsight, they can see how the terrible, no-good, bloody-awful days are massively overshadowed by joy and wonder, and they want to impart this hope to us. Perhaps they know that one day it won’t matter that today you want to hide in the closet in the basement and not come out until bedtime (and even then only if promised All The Wine). Maybe they now long for a tiny screaming child to limpet himself to their legs while they attempt to cook dinner in 90-degree heat.
Nope, they can’t possibly be longing for that — sometimes the right answer is, “Hang in there, here’s some wine.”