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Please, Please (Please?) Stop Telling Me “It Goes So Fast”

One of the hardest things about parenting – for me, anyway – has been listening to this constant refrain, everywhere I go:

“Enjoy every minute. It goes so fast.”

Are you a parent? You know exactly what I’m talking about.

I remember the first time someone said these words to me: my son couldn’t have been more than a couple of weeks old, and I was walking down the street, carrying him in a Bjorn-thing and struggling with a bunch of grocery bags with slowly-ripping handles. He was crying and missing a sock, and while I smiled and said “Oh, I am!” at the lady who’d just told me to enjoy myself while my oranges fell out of the bottom of a paper Fairway bag…honestly? She kind of pissed me off. It seemed like the energy it took to remind me that I should be savoring the experience of grocery-shopping with a newborn could have been better-spent helping me retrieve my wayward fruit.

Later on, though, after my son was asleep, her words came back to me – and in an instant I transformed from a tired but basically happy person who was about to enjoy an hour of relative silence in the company of Tim Riggins into a panicky tear-factory, rushing back into my baby’s room to stare at him (and probably wake him up in the process; bye-bye, Tim Riggins) because WHAT IF I DIDN’T APPRECIATE HIM ENOUGH TODAY?!

This is a message that parents of young children hear virtually every day; common variations on the theme include, “Enjoy them; they grow so quickly,” “Savor every moment; it’ll be over before you know it,” and “This is the best time of your life.” I know it’s a message that comes from a benevolent place. It’s intended to make harried, overwhelmed new parents stop and think and realize how lucky they are.

Except that’s never the effect it actually has.

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  • Olivia

    This is fantastic!

  • Alyssa Kolsky Hertzig

    this is a beautiful, amazing post! and something i definitely needed today, on my son’s third birthday. 🙂

  • Kristin

    Yes, yes, yes! This puts into words everything I’ve been feeling since my son was born almost exactly a year ago. Thank you for the beautiful post!

  • You have literally put clarity to everything I’ve felt since becoming a mom. It’s amazing how you do that Jordan, and it’s what keeps me reading every single post. Every single day. You are an amazingly talented writer.

  • Chris

    Amen (coming from someone who started their day out by enjoying-every-second-of-fleeting-parenthood at 4:40 this morning). I think we have the same level of anxiety (the medicated variety), and the saying makes me a little crazy. What helps me is watching my parents with my daughter. Truly enjoying every second of her and then giving her back reluctantly. They know not what the night time holds. And when I start to get anxious about missing out on her being tiny in the future I just remind myself that I’ll probably get to enjoy it all over again (even more so, without sleep deprivation) when she has babies. Sorry for all the parenthesis. I don’t plan on my brain functioning normally any time soon.

    • Deborah

      After raising 5 children, I can tell you That we, as grandparents absolutly know what your nights and days are like. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done! And it made me a more patient, understanding, and strong person, with great compassion and empathy. I needed better parenting skills. We don’t get a handbook with that first baby. And after 15-20 years I finally figured parenting out, and that’s why We as grandparents say, it goes by fast and enjoy it while they are little. Instead of getting angry and upset in the difficult moments, I wished I had just stopped, hugged my child and had a good heart to heart talk with them about their behavior or what and why I needed them to be good and let them be a part of the solution. And that’s what I do with my grandkids.I just love them because time does go by so fast. Best wishes.

  • Nikki

    Wonderful! I very much needed this I post and feel that you have perfectly captured the journey of parenthood. I love that you emphasized that it’s not ending after they are young, that there are still so many things to look forward to. When I hear that phrase, I feel that it implies that the best has past and you missed it, which is then followed by guilt. There’s still so much greatness to be had!

  • JustSayin

    Is that really something you need to whine about? Too many people have too much to say hoping that they’ll find a bunch of other moms that will play the “oh, me too” game. Do you really need a bunch of strangers giving you affirmation or something? Enjoy being a mom, love every minute, and instead of seeking validation elsewhere, find it in your child.

    • Krystal

      Love every minute? Thats so unrealistic. Loving “every minute” with any person is a ridiculous notion, and obviously you didn’t understand the gist of this article.

  • Carol

    I remember being a young mom and rolling my eyes when an older woman tried to offer wise advice. I was tired. I was insecure in my parenting skills. I couldn’t hear what they were saying because of those two things. It wasn’t until much later on that I realized this. Now, being that older mom, I’d like to shed light on what is possibly behind that tiny phrase, “It Goes So Fast,” and perhaps it won’t be quite as offensive and cause some to roll their eyes the next time they hear it.
    There are two people in this exchange. The first is a young, probably sleep deprived, socially deprived, romantically deprived, overwhelmed with keeping up with everything (dishes, laundry, house, sports, music, dance, etc.), hasn’t showered, possibly feeling inadequate compared to her “professional” working friends, bleary-eyed mom. The second you might label as an older mom, not give it another thought and move on. That’s the problem right there! Who is this “older” mom?? Because her kids are no longer at home does not discount the (in my case 27) years of child rearing under her belt. Unless she is 99 years old and delirious in a nursing home, she is not senile. She hasn’t forgotten “what it’s like.” You have not walked in her shoes, but she HAS walked in yours and then some.
    She HAS spent numerous nights with a cholicy baby.
    She HAS not showered for 10 days.
    She HAS hardly spoken to her husband.
    She HAS felt ugly and stupid.
    She HAS cleaned up two children covered with throw-up because they decided to sleep together on the night one of them developed a stomach virus and threw up on the other one. (Twice!)
    She HAS walked through the grocery store with two carts, one in front with 2 year-old in the seat and a newborn in a carrier in the basket and food in the cart behind, being stared at by everyone who passed her by.
    She HAS been told she has too many kids and hasn’t she learned about a thing called “birth control.”
    She HAS been shopping with kids having melt downs and abandoned a cart full of stuff to take the offenders home and shop later after dad got home.
    She HAS been lonely.
    She HAS rushed her kid to the ER.
    She HAS had to figure out how to buy food and pay bills when her husband was out of work.
    She HAS fought with her husband and slept on the couch.
    She HAS had the police bring her kid home. (Long hilarious story!)
    She HAS has had the principal call because her kid is in the office. (On the same day as the police!)
    Her kid DID get detention(s).
    Her kid DID make Honor Society.
    Her kids DID get a college degree.
    Her kids DID get married.
    Her kids DID have kids.
    Every one of those stages was hard and wonderful at the same time. When that older woman’s last kid walked out the door and the house became empty, the world changed! For better or worse, her job was done. There were triumphs and regrets racing through her mind at that moment. When this older woman is saying, “It goes so fast.” She is not saying you should enjoy the heartache of a disappointing moment with your kid or love that you are covered in throw-up. She is saying each stage has moments that you will never get back again. Don’t waste them on things that are unimportant. Listen to your kids. Put down the phone and play with them. Don’t give yourself more regrets than triumphs on that last day when the last kid develops wings and flies. You can’t go back and do it again. This older mom is cheering you on. She is saying, “You can do it!” Be wise and do it well.
    Believe it or not, some day these very words will come out of your mouth because you will get it. You will understand and you will want that young mom to understand too. 💚💙💜❤️

    • Deborah

      Exactly! From a mother of five grown children.

    • Kate

      Or, she can be a harried new mom AND a professional working mom. I am currently doing both. Just sayin.’

    • PluckyMo

      I don’t at all disagree that those are the motives of the “older” mom. But it rarely comes across that way in the moment. As the author stated, rather than being told to enjoy my fussy baby, the real encouragement would come from picking up the groceries that are dropping to the ground and hearing, “it’ll be okay. Enjoy the good moments.” Cliches rarely communicate much, and the phrase being discussed here is definitely a cliche at this point.

  • Tamara Nelson Faulstich

    There will be plenty of days when you’re going to ask yourself, What the Hell was I thinking?!

  • Stephanie

    As someone who is also currently in the trenches of raising small children, I have to say that I kind of disagree. I definitely understand where you are coming from, but I also think that when people say something like that to you, it’s really not about you, it’s about them. They are not trying to make you feel anxious or that you are not savoring their childhood enough. They are reminiscing those days with their littles, knowing they won’t have those little snuggly, early morning, “I love you, Momma” moments again. People tend to forget about the frustrating things and only remember the good, so in their mind they don’t necessarily see your frustration. I am an extremely sentimental person, sometimes too much, and the phrase, “they grow up too fast” is a good reminder for me when I’m about to lose it. I like the phrase and I use it often because in my life it is a saving grace sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t sit around just staring at my children like some kind of weirdo trying to savor every second. There are times when I have to hide in my room for a few minutes of quiet and maybe a bag of m&m’s I can enjoy all by myself, haha. And I certainly look forward to when they are in bed and I can relax with a tv show or have an actual conversation with my husband. I don’t feel guilty about those things because some alone time makes me a happier person and a better momma. But for the most part, I do try to remind myself that they are only in this stage for so long and one day I will be on the other side looking back and wishing I could have those moments back.

  • Bekah

    This. I love this!

  • You know what? You nailed it. As a mom of 6 whose last two are older teens, yes, I miss the baby days. I miss the toddlers, the funny four and five-year-olds’ sentences and so on. But I totally love and enjoy my grown up kids. They’re wonderful. And I’m enjoying my life that bit by bit has less responsibility for their very existence and more freedom to smell the roses along the way. Good word. Thanks!

  • Pat

    As a grandma of two, methinks you have created a mountain out of a molehill. One person never knows another person’s journey. The idea of asking people not to say “Enjoy every minute. It goes by so fast,” is somewhat like understanding the person who avoids shower registries and prefers to make a personal gift, whether handcrafted or purchased. It is a tradition. Don’t get all verklempt. Keep it simple.
    Smile, and ask for help picking up the oranges. Thank God for your healthy kids and move on. This blog entry is complete narcissistic crap.

  • Krystal

    Great post!

  • Danica

    So well written and I liked what you had to say. It is so good to hear your prospective. I do have to say though that I have liked being reminded that it goes quickly. It has helped me remember not to take these crazy days for granted and I like hearing the older couples express that they enjoyed the stage of life I am in now. However, with having 4 boys 51/2 years apart I always hated people telling me that I had my hands full. Even if I did or do I haven’t enjoyed people telling me that every time I went out. Funny the different things that bother us.

  • BlueMerleGirl

    I totally agree with this article. I struggle with diagnosed anxiety as it is and I really really hate when people say “enjoy every moment, they grow so fast.” I’ve learned to just ignore it because I don’t know what else to do. It happens so frequently when you have a baby. I can’t go out or post a picture on facebook without hearing that statement. Thanks for writing this. One thing- do people say it less the older the kids get? I feel like I do hear it less frequently now (9 months) than I did when she was newborn. I just wonder at what age they will decide to stop.

  • Donna

    I have said this to parents, and I never intend to harm anyone, or make them feel bad. I am trying to say, I know you have days when you think you can’t take another second of being a parent and that thought is immediately followed by profound guilt. I know that you have mornings when you are exhausted before you even leave the house. I know you have days when you wish you could stop the clock and hold them in your arms forever. Older parents are saying, we know the day to day love-filled struggles that you face, but they don’t last forever and it will be gone before you know it. And you will miss it. When I say it, it is with the wistfullness of someone who shares that guilt you feel – did I do enough? Did I permanently scar his psyche the day I forgot to get him at daycare and he was the dreaded “last kid there” (he says no, but it creeps in my mind some days ). I am trying to say be easier on yourself, it will all be OK, and it will be over before you are ever ready. And I promise that at some point in the future, you will see an exasperated parent, with dark circles under their eyes, and you will tell them with a hint of sadness, enjoy every moment, because it goes by too fast. Take it easy on us. We mean no harm!

  • Nicole Simmons

    perfect. thank you.