When I started writing my dissertation, I used to freak out every time I read an article or book that touched on my topic. I would start hyperventilating, panicked that every new idea had already been published, every conclusion already drawn. Those were the glass half empty days, and luckily after about four months, a lightbulb popped on, and I entered a short blissful period of seeing the glass as half full: if someone else had already published it, I didn't have to! And I got to cite it! And include it in my labyrinth of footnotes as proof that my topic was timely and viable because at least one other person also thought to write about it! Sweet validation! Ah, but those were joyous days.
It's ten years later, and not really the same situation at all, but still I had a similar epiphany as I struggled with a post that I've been trying to write about the fleeting and conflicted feelings I have about cherishing every moment - or not - with my daughter. I find that one of the hardest things for me as a parent is knowing, at the very moment that I am furious/impatient/exhausted/bored with some parenting-related issue, that I probably will miss this moment some day.
I'll be freaking out at my daughter for smearing yoghurt/poop/chocolate all over herself/the floor/the TV remote, and all I want to do is be somewhere else/by myself/writing/drinking a mimosa and yet a tiny voice reminds me "this too shall pass - and that passage will make you improbably sad."In the moment, it certainly makes me feel guilty.
I think what the sadness boils down to is the way that nothing marks out the passage of time like having a child. Years used to slip into each other, days and weeks rolling into themselves, with little to suggest how much was changing. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, the changes of seasons: all provided annual opportunities for celebration, reflection, and taking stock. But with children, there is a sense that things are always changing. New words or skills or milestones appear at breakneck speed. Clothes are outgrown in what seems like seconds. Favorite colors and friends flicker in and out of favor in a matter of minutes. Just as soon as I think I've gotten my bearings, I realize that my daughter is moving on, waiting for me to catch up with her.
And the guilt? Well, for one thing, I know I'm lucky I've been able to spend so much time with her, chasing her around, watching her grow, and thinking about who she is and who she will become. I know it's unreasonable to expect to enjoy every moment as a mother, but I just can't escape the sense that I should be enjoying more of them. Or at least enjoying some of them a heck of a lot more.
Thank goodness someone else put all this into a blog post before me, so I don't have to. Thank you, Glennon Melton for writing this post: Don't Carpe Diem.
And a big thank you as well to whoever originally shared that link with me. I cannot remember who you are, that part of my brain having been fried by watching too many episodes of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. But if I had footnotes on my blog, I would totally put you in them.