Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I want to slap you

I'm sure you've all already read a blog or post somewhere about this very subject, but below is my two cents.

You know those people who offer fantastic parenting advice? They have the amazing ability to make you stop complaining almost before you start to unload about your current parenting predicaments. Be it uncomfortable pregnancies, sleepless nights, feeding troubles, permanent markers on the walls, potty training, temper tantrums, sassy backtalk, fighting about appropriate attire or any other number of woes we experience before our direct parenting job is over, these women know just what to say to get you to shut up.  It's like a Christmas miracle how quickly you move on to another subject.

The advice is simple and to the point, as is your response of a flamboyant "Oh, yes! Thanks for the reminder," followed by a polite laugh.

What is it that these people say that makes you suddenly stop complaining and move on to another subject?

It is 3 simple words:

"Enjoy every moment."

Yes, those 3 little words - that are usually followed by a smug "Before you know it, they'll be out of the house!" - are very powerful in getting us to stop complaining.

Instead of a polite laugh and change of subject, here is a small sample of my list of sassy replies that you may choose from the next time you encounter such gracious advice:

-I'm sorry? What part of being deliriously tired to the point of hallucination should I enjoy?

-Really, I should enjoy the sassy remarks my tween makes when I ask him to pick up his dirty socks?

-Can you please tell me how to thoroughly appreciate cleaning up pee all over the house?

-My son just got charged with possession of crack. You're right, this is lovely!

-Oh, I am! I've never had so much fun with sciatica before.

-You're absolutely right, getting up at midnight and 4am to change my daughter's sheets is the best!

-Why don't you come over and clean up the puke all over the living room carpet and then tell me how enjoyable it was for you?

-I can't believe I've let those moments pass me by. I'll start enjoying the screaming and crying during my migraine.

-Come over here so I can smack you.

I'm sure you could think of many more, so feel free to be creative!

Yes, I, like all moms, realize that in a blink my children will be off to college and I will miss them terribly, but did you really just tell me to enjoy the crappy moments of being a parent? Did YOU enjoy those moments or are you simply rubbing in the fact that you don't have to deal with them any more?

I remember reading a Facebook post several years ago of a woman asking for ideas of how to get through the last few weeks of her pregnancy, chasing around an active toddler with her back in such pain that she could hardly function. I kid you not, among the list of practical advice she received, someone actually said, "enjoy this time with your son." I wanted to slap her on behalf of my friend.

Don't get me wrong, being a mother is the most rewarding and wonderful experience I've ever had the pleasure to experience. My daughters give me so much joy and love that I sometimes wonder why we didn't start our family sooner.  I love them so much it hurts and they are very well behaved little girls. I've long been an advocate of trying to make the most out of every day, but some days are filled with so much frustration that I am simply just trying to survive. I'm pretty sure that my parenting experience is not terribly different from other mothers' experiences (other than the fact that my children are nearly perfect in every way). I have talked to honest, down-to-earth mothers who have admitted that there are moments, days or long periods of frustration, exhaustion and even deep sorrow. I can't imagine that the loving parents of a child who has been checked into drug rehab at the tender age of 15 is enjoying that period of time; and the parents of the child who is being bullied at school is not fully appreciating those "moments."

I'm guessing that these cheerful people give these "words of wisdom" for many different reasons. Maybe they really do think they are giving good advice because of the polite reply they are given by the rest of us. Perhaps they feel uncomfortable with people's frustration, so they say something off the cuff to avoid their own discomfort. Some probably have grown children that are wonderful contributing members of society and mother has completely forgotten the day-to-day frustrations she experienced; I think (or hope) this is probably the most likely reason. Or there are those that are completely living in a dream world to block out some painful reality with which they live. Whatever their reasons, I wish they'd try to be a tiny bit empathetic.

So here's my unsolicited advice. When someone is honest enough to tell you that she is not enjoying motherhood that day, don't make her feel stupid or guilty for complaining.  Just listen and say something useful like, "It sucks, but you'll be ok." or "I've been there. Don't worry, this will pass."  or maybe simply offer to pray for her. That has the power to make her feel a little bit normal and can actually encourage her to make it through another day when she feels like giving up.

There, I've said it. It's my rant for the month. I'm hoping my next post will be something delicious or pretty.

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