My Facebook feed has been awash with this piece on the Huffington post by Glennon Melton entitled “Don’t Carpe Diem.” (which might tell you quite about about my Facebook friends). In it, Melton rails against well-meaning busybodies who tell her to enjoy every minute of raising her children. Instead, she claims that she doesn’t love parenting, she loves having parented. And she loves those moments out of time (usually involving sleeping children) when she is grateful for the wonder of her children.
Now, I, too, love those moments. Who doesn’t love those moments? Those moments when the sweetness of your baby, the fullness of your life, just takes your breath away. I’m not disputing that those moments are great. But the rest of this parenting gig doesn’t have to be the hard slog that Melton makes it out to be. (She likens it to climbing Mount Everest. Really? I’ve never gotten frostbite parenting.)
I think there’s been a trend, exacerbated by the internet, of “Keeping it real.” No, parenting isn’t all roses and choruses of angels. Changing diapers is never fun. Sleep deprivation is rarely fun. Trying to find childcare when your kid has the sniffles and you and your husband both have “can’t-miss” meetings at work? Not fun. But this constant complaining I see about how HARD parenting is doesn’t provide the real picture either. I say this: If you aren’t having any fun, you’re doing it wrong.
I am lucky in this way. I realized when the Nuni was VERY tiny that my most miserable mom days were ones where I was trying to get us to conform to some idea I had about parenting. I’d spend the entire day in the house, trying unsuccessfully to get her to nap, only to have my husband arrive home at 5 pm to find a wild-eyed and haggard wife and a cranky baby. On days when I packed us into the car and took us some place — any place — where we could see something together, I would be rewarded with bright-eyed interest and a sound sleep on the car ride home. When I’m trying to accomplish things, whether it’s cooking a meal or running errands or doing laundry, a 4 year old can get in the way. She wants attention, she wants action, she wants her mom. But when I dial down my expectations and actually parent her — let her help break the eggs, or choose the groceries or fold the clothes — we start doing things together, and we have a lot of fun.
I genuinely enjoy my kid. I enjoy those sleeping breathless moments, but I also enjoy the funny conversations, the stories about her school day, the play games where she is “Hermione, and mama can be Pwofessor McGonagall, and Agnes de dog can be Neville.” And I do have to remind myself to enjoy them, like when she’s been in bed 45 minutes and she’s still cycling through her repertoire of songs, making up new lyrics to old favorites. Yes, it would probably be better if she were asleep, but frankly, there’s nothing I can do about that, so I might as well sit in the next room, giggling at her made-up words. The Nuni LOVES going to movies, and her thrill at the big screen and a bucket of popcorn makes up for a mediocre movie. She LOVES shopping for shoes, and going to museums, and mixing batters. If I can let go of some of my expectations and find ways for us to be together, parenting time seems more like playtime, and less like an exercise in frustration.
Kids are fun. Do you remember being a kid, how fun it was? The games you played, the fun and excitement in even the most mundane things? Parenting a kid lets you relive all that. To put away that critical voice from time to time, and just be in the moment. You should carpe that diem. Stop what you’re doing and think about what neat people your children are. Find ways to be with them that’s fun for both of you. Things still need to get done, but with a little attitude adjustment (which, I fully admit, I’m not always capable of), sometimes the “Must do’s” become “Get to do’s” because we get to do them together.
I don’t enjoy every second of parenting, but when I look back over the past four and a half years of time spent with my kid, I think I had fun more often than not. And if I’m not stopping to notice that, I’m missing out. Carpe Diem, indeed.