Op-Ed: ‘You’ll miss this’… will we, though?

Two of the author’s children – Tava Sharp (pictured age 1) and Jackson Sharp (pictured age 5)

Around each turn in a local grocery store or shopping center, you can almost certainly hear some variation of the phrase, “Enjoy this while it lasts,” or “You’ll miss this one day.” These phrases, just like so many others, are often uttered sweetly and fondly by well-meaning passersby, usually aimed at a mother with a gaggle of children in various stages of mayhem, meltdowns and chaos. As well-meaning and supportive as the well-wisher intends it to comes across, to the struggling mother holding a crying baby and refereeing her toddler and 5-year-old child in a busy grocery store checkout, it’s often a wasted sentiment. 

Being a “seasoned” mother of four, I can firmly say that some of these moments will not be missed. Instead, they’ll be looked at with weathered eyes and graying hair, while whispering a silent thanks that we all made it through mostly unscathed. We will not look back and long for the days of tantrums in Target because we dared say no to the third Barbie this week, the meltdowns over the wrong color cup at lunchtime or the arguments about who had the Spider-Man action figure first.

We will never miss the tandem viruses that ravage the entire household and being handed the task of managing not only our own sickness, but also the whole family’s health. We will not hold secret snapshots in our minds of the screams and shrieks of overstimulated toddlers experiencing their third devastation in a crowded zoo, dodging prying and judgmental glares from other parents as an exit is hastily found and taken. 

Not every single moment of motherhood is beautiful; not every single second should be committed to memory, locked away for safekeeping, to be recalled on a sentimental whim. Some parts of motherhood are hard and gritty – parts designed by the universe to test your mettle and strength as a parent. There are times when a sudden name change and a move to a new country begin to sound completely rational and you begin Googling one-way tickets to anywhere but here.

Those moments are hard and sometimes painful and will hopefully be forgotten as quickly as the tantrum over the grilled cheese that was cut into squares instead of triangles and the “severely” injured knee from a tumble on the rug. 

The tiny stolen moments that are sneakily placed between meltdowns and feedings and naps and diaper changes and the 413th load of laundry that week are what keep mothers tethered and sane. These are the snapshots of time that will stay dear, imprinted on our brains and souls forever. 

The crying and inconsolable newborn who settles the second her skin touches ours, the “ouchies,” “boo-boos” and battle injuries that magically disappear under the elixir of our kiss. The feeling of a chubby baby hand stroking our cheek during a sleepy 2 a.m. feeding and the gummy smile full of wonder that greets us the next morning. Proud first steps as they barrel towards us for the first time, until the serenades of rhythmic drumming of feet and melodic cries of “Mommy!” take over. The hand-plucked dandelions from the driveway. These are the moments we will miss with such fierceness our souls could shatter with a light breeze. 

It is entirely possible to painfully long for the brief widows of childhood that seemingly disappeared faster than a blink, while also crossing fingers and wishing on stars that some moments pass quickly and never look back. The former are the moments that will make us soft, safe and sentimental; the latter force us to be strong and resilient.

Combined, these are the moments that make us mothers.