If there’s one piece of vaguely profound and profoundly vague advice you’ll undoubtedly hear as a new parent, it’s that “Enjoy every moment” nugget favored by the majority of veteran parents. You’ll hear it over and over. And over. Usually at the most ironic moments in your early parenting tenure. Like from your aunt the morning after a sleepless night of moments pacing the floor with a wailing, inconsolable baby cutting a molar. Or from a stranger in the park amidst the moment your toddler is throwing a top-of-lung temper tantrum because you snapped their graham cracker in half before handing it to them. Or from your neighbor while you’re in front of your house collecting yourself after a many-moment altercation with your 3-year-old over why they should not vacuum the dog, put your cell phone in the toaster or iron a marshmallow. But you’ll be surprised one day. Because - they’re right! Little kids – little problems. Big kids – big problems. And little problems are, well, littler.
When they’re little at least you know where they are, and while at times it may not feel like it, YOU are in charge. You hold all the cards. You’re in charge of when they have to go to bed. You manage their social life. You can reach the ice cream. They can’t. But as the moments march on, your kids march on, too. On and out and more on their own, as they begin their transition from helpless child to self-sufficient, self-regulating, accountable adult. Gulp.
They’ll go through some challenging times, and won’t let you in to the degree you’d like. You want to prevent them from making the mistakes you made. But it would appear that that’s not how it works. They’re not going to learn from your mistakes, only their own. And the mistakes will be plentiful. It’s torturous.
They’re experimenting. They may delve into whatever substances are in vogue, or experience emotional pitfalls associated with transforming into adulthood. They may even run afoul of the law. They’ll likely fall victim on some level to whatever contemporary teenaged asinine-ities are in play at the time (Hello, ‘Tide Pod Challenge!’) It is scary scary stuff. And then, once they have a handle on it (and I can almost guarantee they will despite how it looks at any given moment), they move out. Which might feel like a relief. For a moment.
But then - There you are! Suddenly wishing you were sopping up the explosive diarrhea that extends from your toddler’s butt crack all the way up their back to their neck with a wad of toilet paper in the airport bathroom prior to your delayed flight upon which they’ll kick the seat of the annoyed passenger in front of them for 3 hours, throw up on your pants and then scream from the pain in the ears from cabin de-pressurization as you go in for a landing. Somehow you’re going to miss that moment.
So, yeah. Enjoy every moment. It IS great advice. But in telling young parents that, you’re wasting your breath. The wisdom of that statement, like most every statement you try to impart to your growing kids, is something every mom and dad will only be enlightened to by way of experience. Wisdom isn’t something you’re told, it’s something you live.