An older woman tells a young mom to treasure the noisy moments of childhood
In the harried days of parenting young kids, it’s easy to feel exhausted, defeated and simply done. No one who’s been through it will argue that these years can be draining, and it’s understandable when a parent loses their cool at the chaos. But the fact is, these years are short and one day, we will miss them. That’s the sobering reminder one mom got when a woman stopped her at the store in the midst of her kids melting down.
And it’s a message we all need to hear.
Jaime Primak Sullivan is a media personality and mother of three young children. She took to Facebook recently to describe a trip to the grocery store with two of her kids where she encountered some wisdom from another shopper.
The mom explains that it was the day after the election and she had just traveled home after hardly sleeping only to delve into her usual parenting duties. Sullivan got her kids from school and brought them home to change clothes, unpack backpacks, feed them a snack, walk the dog, start the laundry — you know the drill. It was after all of those tasks that she dropped off daughter Olivia at practice and took sons Max and Charlie grocery shopping.
Sullivan writes, “Max, Charlie and I walked in and immediately they saw flowers, then balloons, then free samples. Here is where I lost control, my system breaking down – they were giddy, touching everything, and not at all using their inside voices.”
She then explains that she was lost, literally, as she hadn’t been to this new grocery store yet and had no idea where anything was.
“As I navigated the aisles – the repetition began. “Can we get popsicles? Can you hold my balloon! I’m hungry! Can I eat this?” I was hanging on by a thread. Finally, after the 15th time asking them to quiet down, stand by me, stop touching everything all the while my Jersey accent getting thicker by the second – my face dropped. My chin slumped to my chest. I was physically and emotionally exhausted.”
Sullivan writes, “Two soft fingers reached out and lifted my face. “Chin up dear.” An old woman, easily 80, dressed as nice as nice could be with beautiful pearl earrings and set hair smiled warmly. I smiled back. “I’m so tired” I said.”
The woman looks at Sullivan’s children and tells her, “We’re all tired. It’s just a matter of what we’re tired of. I’m tired of silence. My husband is gone, my children are grown and most days I don’t hear so well, so for me, this noise is nice. Enjoy it while you still can.”
As the mother of slightly older kids (ages nine and seven), this story deeply resonates. My children no longer act out in public the way they did years ago, but I vividly remember that defeated feeling. And wishing away those years because they were so chaotic and stressful.
But now? Ugh.
These days, I would give literally anything to experience my kids as chatty preschoolers again. To relive a few moments of those grocery store trips where I’d have to summon all my patience to not lose my shit and probably forget half the things I went for. At the time, those difficult moments felt like the end of the world — humiliating and exhausting. But looking back, the old adage is truer than ever; the days are long, but the years are short.
At the time, I might not have reacted with grace if a stranger told me to “cherish” the noise of my small children. Because while these hard phases are happening, they feel so endless. With the benefit of time and the wisdom of nearly 10 years of parenting behind me, I know differently. While I’ll never tell a mom of little ones to treasure every difficult moment, I also won’t hesitate to let them know that I miss those days now. Even the worst ones.
For her part, Sullivan was grateful that the woman reached out. “I thanked her and went on with my shopping. Last night I prayed for that woman, for her heart and for the remaining days of her life. I felt incredibly thankful that she felt a call towards the human connection and acted on it. Lord knows I needed it.”
We all needed it.