By MIA FREEDMAN
I’ve become one of those people who talk to strangers with babies. I say things like “Cute!” or “How old?”. But if you ever hear me urge a new parent to “Enjoy every second!”, please tell me to shut up.
Those every-second people are so annoying and yet I fear I’ll soon become one of them. My youngest starts school next year and I’m gutted already.
During frequent bouts of baby nostalgia, I sometimes ask if I can put him back in my tummy. He patiently points out that he’s too big and would break me. I’m glad someone has a mature grip on this growing up situation.
There’s a famous seventies song about parent/child relationships called Cat’s In The Cradle that squeezes my heart every time I hear it. The son pleads: ‘When you coming home Dad?’ and his father replies: ‘I don’t know when. We’ll get together then, son. I know we’ll have a good time then.’ Except he never finds time and the son grows up and moves away and eventually it’s the dad who asks plaintively, “When you coming home, son?” only to be rebuffed by a grown man who doesn’t need his father anymore.
Right now I’m living in the middle of that song. My youngest kids want to devour me while my teenager’s focus has switched from family to his friends. Living with a teenager is a lot like dating someone who’s Just Not That Into You. You wait around hoping they’ll throw you a bone – a conversation, a clue about how they’re feeling or what they’re doing. And when they occasionally notice you, you’re embarrassingly grateful for their meagre attention. It’s kind of pathetic.
Looking back, do I wish I’d spent more time with my boy-man when he was younger? Did I read him enough stories? Should I have given him more attention? Was I present enough? Did I blink and miss it?
Blogger Glennon Melton recently wrote about a stressful day out with her three kids when a woman behind her in the Target line said: “Sugar, I hope you are enjoying this. I loved every single second with my two girls. Every single moment. These days go by so fast.”
At that particular moment, one of Melton’s children had grabbed a bra from the trolley and was wearing it on his head while sucking a lollipop he’d found on the ground. Another was missing and the third was trying to steal the cashier’s pen. “So I just looked at the woman, smiled and said, “Thank you. Yes. Me too. I am enjoying every single moment. Especially this one.”
In her blog, Melton confessed to feeling guilty “because I wasn’t in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn’t MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT.”
Oh the pressure. After having a baby, photographer Elinor Carucci earnestly told the New York Times, “I had to choose between photographing and mothering.” Every photograph became “a second of guilt” she explained, because she wasn’t fully engaged and immersed as a mother. “Even if it was just for 1/125th of a second, I wasn’t available in that 1/125th of a second.”
Wait, really? Spending less than one second not engaged with your child is a reason for guilt?