“Cherish these moments,” she said, “they will be gone before you know it, and you will miss them.”
“Really?” I thought, as I scooped my son up off the commissary floor mid-tantrum. I’m going to miss waging war in the grocery store? I’m going to miss breaking up fights in the cart about who gets to hold the apples? I’m going to miss saying, “No, we aren’t getting ice cream today” 500 times before we reach the check out line? She can’t possibly mean that when my kids are grown I will have an eternal yearning to spend my days wiping tushies, cleaning up toys and enforcing boundaries, can she? If these are the most cherished days, I thought, then I need to turn in my resignation letter IMMEDIATELY.
Every mom of littles has been the recipient of that phrase so often that it runs on a scrolling ticker through our brains. Unfortunately for me, this gentle reminder most often causes this thought to emerge: “I must be a terrible mom because I just can’t cherish watching the toy dump truck unload a pile of dirt on my living room carpet.” I must've been born without the mom gene that causes me to say, “I just love it when my kids wake me up five times during the night, and when they put shaving cream in each others’ hair. These moments are precious and fleeting and I don’t know how I will live once they are over.”
Seriously, how can the majority of seasoned mothers look at me with a straight face and tell me that I will MISS THESE DAYS? I ask that question genuinely because for a while I thought I was doing something wrong. I thought I was missing some crazy joy in parenting, or that I was failing miserably because I didn’t see my kids through perpetual rainbow-filled glasses. And then, something made sense to me.
I played soccer growing up. From the time I could walk through my freshman year of college, I spent countless hours on a soccer field. It was, in many ways, my second home, and my source of consistency amidst countless childhood moves. A soccer field was not only my sanctuary, but also my battleground. I have extremely fond memories of playing soccer. I made forever friends in the process and learned innumerable life lessons from my coaches along the way. Just last month, a friend asked me “Do you play soccer?” and I instantly said “Yes!” but then realized I haven’t touched a ball in 7 years. I still dream about soccer, I see myself on the field making diving saves, and when I watch a women’s soccer game, my love for the sport is reignited—stirring up all of the positive memories I have from that time in my life. Soccer is an integral part of who I am, and it always will be.
While I have continuously loved the sport of soccer, I know deep down that I didn’t always love the game. Just hearing the words “Get on the line!” gives me PTSD. I was undoubtedly the slowest on the team and absolutely dreaded any kind of conditioning. It wasn’t just the running, I hated, but the two knee surgeries I had as a result of playing, and the countless disappointments. The disappointment of going from a starting varsity goalkeeper in one state to a JV player in another. The games where I let an easy goal in, or played my heart out and came up short. My soccer career was filled with many setbacks, and devastating losses, but the pain that accompanied the game, never muddied my enthusiasm for the sport. The heartache was always overshadowed by the victories—the games where I was unbeatable and composed and intuitive. I can vividly remember the last soccer game I ever played, it was hands-down the best game of my life. I remember my incredible teammates—the ones that supported me through surgeries and cheered me on during every conditioning session. Those great games and fond relational memories are what I hold most dear, as they eclipse the moments of disappointment associated with playing the game.
I think those veteran mamas feel the same way about parenting littles that I feel about soccer. They look back on it with fond memories, clinging to their successes and minimizing their failures. They remember mid-morning snuggles, a baby’s first steps, and hearing “I wuv you” out of a toddler’s mouth. They remember wiping away tears, hearing a baby giggle, and they miss being the MVP in their child’s life. They remember the mom friends who were monumental in that season—the ones who provided emergency childcare when their cup was filled to the brim, and who cheered them on when the race seemed too overwhelming. They simply love the sport of parenting, and it is the crux of their identity.
For so long when I would hear “Cherish these moments”, I thought it was an action statement—something I could tangibly do to make myself a more appreciative mom. I’ve come to realize that’s a big pile of baloney. Rather than being a demand for the present, I think that phrase is a charge for the future. The word “cherish” is used as both the present tense (cherish NOW) and the future tense (cherish LATER). To be honest, I think it is impossible to cherish parenting moments in the middle of the season. In the same way, I didn’t cherish my time on the soccer field when I was in the middle of the game. Cherishing only happens once we’re sitting on the sidelines, looking back at the past. For now, all I can do is simply play the game. Those seasoned mamas are up in the grandstands watching with adoration as I play the sport that they love. One day, I will join them and watch affectionately as young moms chase their kids around the grocery store. Watching them will bring back memories of my time on the field, but I won’t be sad my kids are out of diapers, I will simply miss playing the sport.
What sweet relief that realization has been to me. I no longer fall victim to mommy guilt that says I am not appreciating all of the moments adequately enough. Instead, I just get to enjoy being on the field right now. I get to have days when I win and moments when I lose, and when the season is over, I can sit at the End-of–Season banquet and watch the highlight reel. I won’t have to cherish ALL of the moments, but get to cling to the ones I love. I get to remember the good games, and minimize the defeats. I get to pass by young moms and smile because I, too, have so much love for the sport they are playing, not because I want to be back in the game but because the sport gave me some of my most cherished memories. I get to love the sport of parenting, but sometimes hate the game.
Now when I hear, “Cherish these moments” I no longer say begrudgingly, “Don’t worry, I am.” But rather I respond, "I most definitely will.” The cherishing will come in the post-season, but for now, there are many more games to be played.
I am a lover of people, a child of God, and a laugher at jokes. I write words, cry tears and smile at strangers.