I didn’t cherish every moment … and that’s okay.

i did not cherish every moment on honestmom.comHer body is still little enough that she can snuggle into me when we cuddle after reading books. But just barely.

Her little hand still tucks into mine when crossing the street, but she pulls away as soon as she senses it’s safe.

Today I discovered I can no longer hold her around my hip with one arm under her. I just realized this because it’s been a while since she’s asked for “uppy”– the requests for being held are dwindling.

My baby is five now. Full of big words, big thoughts, big dreams. Soon Gracie will tell me not to call her my baby, because she’s a Big Girl.

How did she go from baby to toddler to preschooler so fast?

“Cherish these moments,” they said to me. “They grow so quickly,” they lectured.

I shrugged off these admonishments over the last few years as I struggled with the 1am colic, the continuous sleepless nights, and the endless tantrums over wearing clothing.

Cherish this stuff? Really? I thought, as I read Corduroy for the forty-seventh time, fruitlessly hoping Gracie would not scream bloody murder at 2am that night.

I don’t miss those times with her. At all. Much of Gracie’s first three years are a blur of PPD-colored exhaustion tinged with some happy moments. But as I’ve watched her grow so quickly over the last few months, it’s the happy times that are at the forefront of my mind.

One of my favorite moments with Gracie was when she was three days old. We were in the hospital. It was 5am. We had just finished a nursing session and it was quiet. Just me and her, snuggling alone for the first time. She already looked like herself. She was Gracie. And she was perfect.

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I remember how was she was curled up like that on me. So small. So warm. I picked her up, cuddled her into my chest, and we snoozed. It was true love.

I have fond memories of Gracie’s baby chuckles, big goofy toothless grins, daring table-climbing escapades, and uncertain first steps.

And oh, the early birthday parties. Gracie’s second birthday party was a labor of love that reflected her fondness for primates and her prized monkey rain boots. Her third was a homage to Dora on an unusually temperate late October day. She twirled in her long pink tutu and new Dora shirt and played preschool party games with the zest only a new three-year-old has.

There were wobbly first bike rides and surprisingly accurate soccer kicks. The first thrills of drippy popsicles and freezing cold pools. The magic of a inaugural Disney trip and the beauty of a first beach trip.

There were definitely great things about those first few years…

…but still, I don’t want to go back.

There were more days than I care to admit when I was wishing my way out of Gracie’s early years. Now, those tough days are fading while the sweet times are cementing themselves in my memory. Basically, I’m picking which moments to cherish and letting the rest go. Isn’t that the privilege of motherhood?

We’re at a really good stage now. Gracie is still full of little kid innocence and joy. Yet she’s finally big enough for a family game night that doesn’t involve Candy Land (thank GOD) and old enough to happily play in her room on her own for an hour or so (heaven on a Sunday afternoon).

I’ll enjoy this magical blend of little girl-big girl while I can. Getting to enjoy flashes of each gives me the best of both worlds for a fleeting moment in time. This age is full of moments to cherish. And at this time of year, that is something to be truly thankful for.

The other night Gracie pulled out Corduroy and waved the book with glee. “Mommy, let’s read this one. We haven’t read it since I was four!”

And I smiled as she snuggled into me, still fitting. For now.

Were your kids tough when they were little? What good memories do you carry with you from those times?

PS: Like this? Then you’ll love my essay in the new book, I STILL Just Want to Pee Alone! Check it out!

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30 Replies to “I didn’t cherish every moment … and that’s okay.”

  1. The title alone of this piece tugged at my heart…. HARD. I was even to scared to read it, but I forced to as I still love with guilt of not enjoying the first 2 years of Savannahs life. I am not sure what happy memory kept me going, to be honest sometimes it all feels like it was a blur, days rolling into each other, which never seemed to end. Thank you for keeping it real and honest. Thank you for letting me be kind to myself as I tell others to be. I love and cherish every moment now. Blessings xoxox

  2. That’s the thing about motherhood, isn’t it? We somehow block out the sleep deprivation, the endless cycle of pukey laundry & dirty bottles…and are left with the sweet memories of cuddles & coos & milk-induced comas. I like to think of this phenomenon as God’s way of giving people siblings. Because if we reeeeally remember what those early days were like, no woman would be willing to do that more than once!

  3. This is absolutely my philosophy. I think any child, regardless of how “easy”, is hard to parent for the first couple of years. I’m not saying I don’t have lovely memories from that time — It’s just hard. I think it’s really kind of flabbergasting, particularly for the older generations (who tend to dish out the “cherish every moment” stuff) that I feel this way, but, from talking to my peers, it is certainly not unusual. I think memories just turn a little rose-colored after all that time. 😉

    Now that my daughter is almost 3, I’m starting to get to the “cherish every (or most) moment” phase, but with a new baby on the way, I know this time around that the first two years will pretty much just be about getting through. I think when they get to 2 or 3, they get to be more a fully-formed person that you can like and enjoy, rather than just a bundle of needs.

  4. I love your posts. I’m in the thick of the beginning, with twins, and battling anxiety/depression. I had all the trigger factors – long history of it, twin pregnancy, weeks of bedrest, traumatic delivery, death in my immediate family this year, etc. We just went to their 4 months old appointments. I take medication for the depression, but still struggle (albeit I am much better than the horrendous first 5 weeks right after). I feel guilty nonstop for wishing away some of these moments, as if I should be sitting and taking pictures of the onesie that one of the girls pooped through this morning as I scrubbed it in the sink. Thanks for your blog and posts, I was so happy to find it in my new mom blur.

    1. I also recently had twins and have many of the same things as you (traumatic delivery, bedrest, lifetime battling anxiety/depression). My twins are my second go around with this whole mommy thing. (I had a singleton the first time.) And I can tell you from experience that having twins is no joke. This may make you feel better: the first time I was away from the twins, I cried. Not because I was sad to be away from them, but because of the sheer relief to not be around them. And I cried when I went to pick them up because I just didn’t think I could handle it any more. So please know that you are not alone. You are doing an extremely difficult thing, and you’re doing a great job. And if you take a picture of the poopy onesie, tag someone in the picture who told you to cherish these moments and tell them your daughter sent them a gift. (J/K…not really.)

  5. I agree. There were so many moments of that first year of parenthood which were scary, especially the first few months, and I don't want to go back. Except maybe for those newborn snuggles. I'm in the middle of the 5-yr-old stage, too, and I'm wishing time would just slow down a little since those first years went so fast and were so hard.

  6. Wow, I was totally reading and thinking I so could have written this, because as my oldest (who also had colic) is nearing 5 years old now, I also heard, “cherish these moments” and while I am a bit sad at times that she is growing up, I don’t miss the screaming any during the night nor the crazy first year we had with her, but I also do remember and hold onto the better moments like the very early morning the day after she was born just cuddling and snuggling in my hospital bed with her. It was just the two of us, but for those few hours it was peaceful, quiet and quite honestly perfect. Those are the moments, I tend to chose to hold onto, as well here.

  7. Well I have to say 5 to about 9 and half are my favorite ages. I feel it’s the reward for the three to 4 and half hard days, and a reprieve before the twee and teen attitude. I do miss the baby days but I wouldn’t want to go back (most days). Now that I’m on my last, he is 8, there are days when I miss the sweetness of those first years, but I think I’m also suffering from mom amnesia because as you said, some of those days weren’t really so great at all!!! It sounds like you and Grace are in a great place!! Very happy for you both!

  8. Parenting is hard, babies are hard, no sleep is hard. PPD is hard… Remembering that it gets easier and that you’re human and make mistakes (and they’re too young to hold it against you) that makes everything, good and bad, ok about parenting. And then every child is different, so basically we’re one step away from crazy for many years… Fun right?!

  9. AMEN!! I think the worst message we send to moms of little ones is to love every minute of it. Because that is virtually impossible. My kids are now 4 and 7, and their littler years will marked by my PPD as well. We are in such a better place now, and while I miss the baby smiles and sweet moments, I do not wish to get them back. It’s so much better now. Thanks for writing this. Truly.

  10. I think there would probably be more to cherish if I could remember it all. 🙂 I had my 3 so close together that the past 6 years have been not much more than a blur. But now that they are 6, 4 1/2, and 3, things are getting a little easier and I believe I am enjoying life with kids more.

  11. I agree! My girls are now 11, 9, & 6 and I don’t miss those baby days. My SIL is expecting her first in January and I cannot imagine going throughout hose days again. I think every stage of parenting has its positives and its negatives. We do treasure the happy moments, but to make others think every moment is wonderful isn’t honest. It’s hard. Plain and simple.

  12. The first year, especially, can be hard and as moms, we should have the right to say that. My son is two, and though I miss his baby self, I am happy that he’s much more independent now. It gives me time to think, and write, and take a long shower!

  13. My son (20 months) was a HORRIBLE, I repeat, HORRIBLE baby. Seriously. The first 6 months were hell. I didn’t know how I was ever going to be the same. I was depressed, broke, trapped in a one bedroom apartment with no natural lighting, and my son was what they call a “high-stimulus baby.” He had to be involved in all the action so he never slept. And never is pretty damn accurate.

    I couldn’t breast feed so I pumped. Between pumping, feedings, feeding myself, and trying to nap, I hallucinated from no sleep almost on a daily basis. It was miserable.

    But now that he’s walking, talking, climbing, and being crazy as hell, I love it. I enjoy it. I cherish it. He’s so much fun and is making up for all of the hell he caused me. But even through the hell he caused, I still love him and I still want more kids.

  14. The picture is sooo Cuuuuuuuuuuuute! Have to agree w/ you wholeheartedly. There was A LOT I won’t miss, but I know some day when the kids have grown & are gone, I will miss yelling at my son to get ready for school in the morning and all the times he barged in on me in the shower.

  15. Of course it’s okay to not cherish every moment with your little kids. But what is okay? It’s not bad. It’s not great. Do we strive for okay?

    Obviously every parent’s experience is different. Some children are inherently easier than others. Some parents are more amiable to toddler activities than other?

    Some parent have more to cherish than others. Is that the point?

  16. I have fond memories of my boys when they were babies- but it’s by looking at the highlights. If I think back to the day to day, I definitely don’t miss it, at all. I’m very happy to past the baby stage!

    My oldest was a terrible sleeper. He usually only slept about 1.5-2 hours in a row until he was about 6 months old. If I was lucky, I’d get a 4 hour stretch. Even though he was a cuddly, adorable baby, there is no way I could go back to that!

  17. I don’t remember the “milestones” that my kids think I should remember. I remember the snuggles, the nights rocking my oldest to sleep, the grins and giggles and interactions between my boys once my youngest was born. The sheer adoration of his older brother which has since given way to sibling spats, his fierce independence in not wanting to be held and in holding up his walker while he was in it because it was getting in his way.

    I do vividly remember thinking (more times than I can count) that I was never meant to be a mother of 2 kids at those ages. (My oldest was just shy of 3 when his brother was born.) I don’t remember either boy’s first word. I can tell you when they started walking, when their first injury was and how it happened. I can tell you that my oldest was speech delayed, and I figured out that it was just speech and nothing else when he corrected me while I was reading a book to him at just over 2 years old. I can tell you lots more, too.

    We AREN’T supposed to cherish it in the moment. Not the sleepless nights, the screaming, the inconsolable cries, the endless laundry and diapers and cracked nipples and tears and…. none of that. The moments we DO cherish, those are the ones we remember. And those are the ones that will make us, no matter how determined we are not to be one of those people, tell new mothers to cherish every moment.

  18. I definitely didn’t cherish the first 3 months while I battled postpartum anxiety. And I didn’t cherish the times I lost my temper when he wasn’t sleeping. I don’t cherish all of the moments I second-guessed my other mothering skills. But I do miss seeing some of those early moments for what they were… fleeting moments.

    Great post, JD. Honest and raw.

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