Since I find myself straddling a couple of worlds these days, that of a mother whose children are nearly grown up and heading out on their own as well as a mother of young children, I find I have a rather unique perspective on this. And I have to admit that I side more and more with those older mothers. But instead of just reminding mothers of young children to enjoy it all, let me tell you why and perhaps give some ideas of how this can be done even in those loud and frustrating moments.
I know I've written this before, many times in fact, but since my readership is constantly changing, those old posts may never be discovered, and that is those older mothers were right. It does go by very, very fast, even though there are some hours which seem to stretch on into eternity. When you are up all night, night after night with a baby who refuses to sleep, you feel as if there is not end to the torture. Plus, if it is just your first or second child, you have yet to experience the looking back and are still stuck in what feels like never ending sleeplessness. No matter how many people tell you the child will sleep eventually, there is a part of you that doesn't quite believe it. This child has changed everything and you can't imagine normalcy every happening again. I've been there. I know.
But now, looking at my tall and nearly grown up 17 year old son, I wish I could go back, even for a moment and hold him again as a baby. Even if that moment was one where he was screaming because he didn't want to sleep. Heck, I would even take the whole 6 month stint because I know it would eventually end. But I also know I can never have those 6 months back again. I can never go back and appreciate that baby again.
And here is what I think is the key to the need for older mothers to approach younger ones and remind them to enjoy it all. They know what it feels like to look back and regret not having done so themselves. They know that even those really hard moments were unique and special and would never come again. Our children keep growing and changing; nothing is ever static and nothing can be held on to. We know the ache of missed appreciation and want to spare others that feeling.
I have been blessed to be able to take my own advice because of my little ones. They grow up too fast and there is no rewind button. I have regrets over spending more time worrying about my first few children than just appreciating who they were and I don't want to make that mistake again. I relish every moment with my current batch of littles. Even when G. and L. had their own non-sleeping stint and I was so fatigued I have definite memory lapses of that time, I knew that it would they would eventually sleep and I wanted to appreciate it. But even with my experience, there are times where I have to remind myself that the moment (often loud or pee-filled) will pass and that I will regret not appreciating even this bump in the road.
I know when you have just one or two or three little people this is easier said than done. But I think there are a few things you can do to make it more realistic when you have those moments that you wish would end. First, you really do need to remind yourself that this is just a brief moment that will pass. Don't make it a bigger deal than it should be. I find it helpful to pour a figurative bucket on water on myself and imagine how I would feel if something happened to one of my children and that was the last interaction I had with them. It provides a type of clarity that nothing else can. Second, if you just have small people in your charge, are you trying to do too much? Nothing will create frustration and anger like trying to squeeze too much into life when children are little. Little ones move slowly, get tired easily, and are loud when they are asked to go beyond their endurance. Maybe going to three stores in a day is two stores too many. Do you really need to go? Scale back your life to small child terms and see a lot of frustration evaporate. Last, sometimes you really need to ask yourself why something is making you crazy. We mothers can be a competitive bunch. Are you asking your child to do something he or she isn't ready for just because someone else' child is already doing it? We add a lot of 'shoulds' in life that don't need to be there. Where do your expectations come from and are they realistic? Are the necessary? Are the ultimately helping or harming your child and your relationship with that child? I believe that these three things will help you appreciate your children more. Doing them won't make every day perfect, but they will help.
Please take the advice of a mother who has watched her children grow up and enjoy every minute. It really does go by so fast.