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Never (Ever!) Say This to a New Mom

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Updated June 11, 2018
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Image: Jecamean / The Bump

You know what never gets old? Being accosted by a complete stranger in the grocery store as you’re trying to wheel your cart down the international foods aisle without the baby grabbing and smashing an expensive jar of kalamata olives on the floor.

“Ohhhh, just look at that little face!” these people squeal. “Enjoy every minute, because they grow up before you know it!”

OK, I’m lying. This gets very old, very fast. As does the advice — no, demand— to focus on the present, be in the moment and appreciate the little things, because it all goes so fast. People especially love to say this to new moms.

I know they mean well, but I always wanted to tell these people, “Look, I get that your baby grew up overnight and is now graduating college and you’re all sentimental about it, but mine is still an actual baby who gets up multiple times a night and demands attention and nourishment and diaper changes around the clock. So you’ll excuse me if I don’t agree with you that this time is as fleeting and precious as a rainbow.” Depending on how much sleep and coffee I’d had, I also may have had the urge to ram their shins with my grocery cart.

And let’s talk about this “enjoy every moment” thing for a minute. When people say that, I imagine they are picturing a baby taking his first steps, laughing in delight as a butterfly lands on his nose in a meadow of wildflowers, or maybe they’re referring to watching your little angel sleep peacefully in her crib. Well, who wouldn’t enjoy those moments?!

But what about the moments when you’re waiting in line at the pharmacy and your toddler is grabbing every single pack of gum off the rack and rummaging in the trashcan that’s probably filled with used hypodermic needles? What about when you’re on a plane and your baby is releasing noxious fumes into his diaper and the surrounding airspace? What about when you take your child to get a haircut and he throws a complete hissy fit that results in unfortunate bangs and a hair-covered lollipop? Anyone lining up to savor those moments? Anyone?!

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What many people fail to understand (or remember) is that when you have a small child, there are many, many moments in the day, especially if they get up before dawn and boycott naps like my kids. Even the Dalai Lama himself could not be fully present and at peace for that many moments in a row.

These are the moments you’ll find me enjoying: when I come downstairs wearing earrings and a clean T-shirt for once and my toddler son says, “You look pretty, Mommy!” That puddle on the floor? That’s my heart melting. Or even moments like the morning when we were brushing our teeth and he looked in the mirror and said, “We all have eyebrows.” He is like a tiny Zen Buddhist, full of awareness and wisdom.

My advice for those grocery-store philosophers? Approach a mom with a small child cautiously, as you would a bear in the wild. If you must, you may squeal, “Ohhhh, just look at that little face!” But after that, keep moving.

Unless you want to have a moment you might not enjoy so much.

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