You’re exhausted after a long day, and apparently your toddler is too because they are on the floor of your local grocery store throwing an exorcism-worthy tantrum over a sucker. Just when you’re at your breaking point, some seasoned, wise, veteran of a parent walks by, smiles, and says, “You’re going to miss this.’
In the history of parenting, never ever has anyone been comforted by those five words so carelessly slung together. I am not a seasoned, wise, veteran of a parent. I do however have three children in very different stages of childhood.
The truth? You are not going to miss this, and you shouldn’t feel guilty when you don’t. Now, don’t get me wrong, you are going to long for them at every single stage of their childhood. There are moments you would give anything to have back, regrets of shoulda, coulda, woulda, but this is not an all-encompassing notation.
I miss the days of my children being tiny, cuddly infants all wrapped up in my arms. I would love to have each of them back at that stage for just a day—but only on their best day. The past can keep the days of seven blowout diapers in a two-hour time frame, the up-all-night teething spells, the sleep regression, and lawd have mercy, the separation anxiety. I want those sweet babies back on their best day. The days when they barely cried, ate like champs, cuddled like pros, and slept 10 hours straight. That is the baby I miss.
Toddlers? Well, truth be told, they are mostly assholes and the “take me back” memories can easily be weeded out here. My firstborn was a notorious biter. The tiny, little, diaper-butt, chomping gangster of day care. Actually, all three of my boys were “that” toddler. They were all masters of boycotting sleep as well. It was a gift, and by gift, I do mean curse.
The past can keep all those incident reports I had to sign after my raging toddler took a chunk out of their friend. The past can keep those nights of putting my persistent toddler back in his “big boy” bed 578,954,034 times. I don’t want those days back. I miss the first words, the first steps, the days when they discovered something random that made them laugh so hard they couldn’t even catch their breath. I miss watching them discover the world. I would totally take one of those days back in a heartbeat.
My boys are now 5, 6, and 8. We still have plenty of stages of their childhood to experience, but I am so happy and content with where we are. I have days where I miss the past. I have days where I wish I would have taken it all in more. The truth, the beauty of parenthood, is you can never cherish it enough. Ever. Period. You are always going to want more of those good days—those days where the stars align and the baby takes a nap, keeps his poop contained to his diaper, and laughs way, way more than he cries. Those days exist, and you will earn the hell out of them.
I guess what I am getting at is this: Don’t feel guilty when you “don’t miss this.” Not every single aspect of parenthood is worthy of being missed. I cherish every single, special, perfect moment I had with my children even if it meant I lost sleep, shed tears, or was left with a mess to clean up at the end of the day. I miss aspects of them at every stage, and I also breathe sighs of relief that those stages are over and that is perfectly OK.
The key to parenthood is cherishing your children at their best while loving them and seeing them through their worst. Of course, if you miss something, it’s because you cherished it, right? So, it’s OK when you don’t miss this.