This is what I want to say when someone tells me to ‘enjoy my kids while they’re young.’ Actually? That’s the polite version.
‘Enjoy your kids while they’re young.’
It’s perhaps one of the most patronising things a ‘well-meaning’ person can say to a parent.
In six, simple words, it assumes so much. Mainly, that we are very clearly NOT enjoying our kids. And, to be fair, maybe we aren’t at that particular moment. But if we’re really expected to enjoy them ALL of the time then either that person is insane, or we definitely are.
Because parents who enjoy their kids all of the time must be a) drunk b) parenting remotely or c) insane.
Things parents enjoy.
Make no mistake. We LOVE our kids. And we enjoy them plenty. Here are several occasions on which this happens:
a) When they stop whingeing/bickering for 30 seconds and do something nice, either for us or their siblings, revealing a depth of kindness that we are just relieved to discover they actually possess. (Leaving us with one less thing to worry about when we lie awake at 3.00 AM. ‘Will they ever learn fractions?’ ‘Are they going to turn into a serial killer because they bit their sister?’)
b) When they say, ‘OK, Mum,‘ upon first time of asking. We enjoy this IMMENSELY, whilst laying down in a state of shock.
c) When everyone eats their dinner, asks to leave the table and puts their plates on the side (before turning into pink elephants and flying off to have a bath and put themselves to bed).
d) You get my gist.
Things parents don’t enjoy.
Naturally, there are moments that are less enjoyable. Here are some of those:
a) Getting everyone out of bed, dressed in something (anything) with a breakfast inside them that doesn’t consist of chocolate digestives, before killing ourselves to get them out of the door WITH a pair of shoes on. TO A DEADLINE (i.e. school).
b) Looking after toddlers whose only real desires are to experiment with various ways of unintentionally trying to kill themselves.
c) Explaining fractions (whilst worrying about the ‘serial killer’ thing).
d) Anything that occurs between the hours of 5-7 PM (i.e. until it’s socially acceptable to drink gin.)
A gentle warning.
Sometimes, other (working) halves might say these words to the other (non/part-time working) parent. At the start of the weekend.
For example, if they’ve been at work all week. They may wake, refreshed and optimistic, on a Saturday morning, full of the joys of parenthood because it is easy to ‘enjoy them when they’re young,’ when you’re not with them, or having drinks after work or whatever. The other parent, meanwhile, has been enjoying them ALL this time, which is probably why they’re feeling a little jaded or not falling over themselves to go swimming with you all.
So. If you’re that refreshed parent, beware of the pitfalls of uttering, ‘Enjoy them while they’re young.‘ Perhaps wait until 8.15 AM, when you’ve been reminded of the reality. Otherwise, you may find your other half looking a bit angry and answering any questions you have like this:
a) ‘Can you help me get them dressed?’ – ‘ENJOY THEM WHILE THEY’RE YOUNG!’
b) ‘Where are their knickers/pants/tights?’ – ‘ENJOY THEM WHILE THEY’RE YOUNG!’
c) ‘Where are the wipes?’ – ‘ENJOY THEM WHILE THEY’RE YOUNG!’
Never tell an already overstretched parent to ‘enjoy their kids while they’re young,‘ unless you’re comfortable with the possibility of being told to ‘f*@% off and die.’
We’re enjoying our kids, I promise you. Sometimes, we just hide it REALLY well because we’re knackered. So someone pointing out that we also essentially look miserable, isn’t that helpful and just adds to the guilt we already feel about lots of other things. If you have to say something, ‘Great job. It’s not easy, is it?’ will do very nicely.
Very nicely, indeed.