When someone asks if I have children, how many, and how old (the answers are yes; three; ages 11, nine and six) - their response to me is usually some variation of “Wow - you’ve got your hands full!” or “You’re in the thick of it!” Typically, it’s a woman who is older than me, whose children are grown and gone. I shall call her #olderwellrestedwoman
Often, she will follow up with something along the lines of “Enjoy these days - they go by so fast!” Or, my personal favorite “You’re going to miss this!”
At which point, as I’m looking at her well-rested face and calm demeanor, I usually respond with a polite “I know! Thanks!” but internally I’m throwing her the mother of all eye rolls. Thanks, #olderwellrestedwoman
What I’m really thinking is that they call it “the thick of it” because it’s HARD. It’s not always hard, and it’s not always exhausting, but let’s be honest - a lot of it is. That’s why it’s called THE THICK OF IT.
Thick - like my waistline - is not ideal. Thick is too much of one thing.
“You’re going to miss this!” is precisely what I don’t need to hear as my child is pitching a fit because she’s hungry, but won’t eat the hot dog I got her because “it tastes like a hot dog.” Or as my girls are fighting over the only crayon in the car, which is inexplicable given the estimated billions of crayons we own. Or as my eleven-ager gives me copious attitude because he’s hangry and currently filled with discontent. This is the thick of it, folks. And I’m in it.
I can’t help but feel trivialized when an #olderwellrestedwoman says that I’m going to miss this. I know that’s not their intent, but what I hear is “you should be enjoying this more than you are.” What I also hear is a resounding message that I shouldn’t complain about my life or my kids. Ever.
My children and my husband and my life are absolute treasures to me: I am abundantly blessed. I FOUGHT to have these precious children. I love them more than Outlander and ironic coffee mugs. However, I should be able to lean on and vent to my village about the less than perfect moments and seasons of raising children, marriage, and life, and to do so without enduring the retort “but you’re going to miss this.” Just let me be where I am. Yes - I will miss pieces of this - but pieces of this are also REALLY HARD. They’re thick.
I’m not alone: the other day, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about how tired she is of her kids being slobs. She was complaining about cleaning their rooms that she had repeatedly asked them to clean. More than one person responded to her post “but you will miss the mess when they are grown and gone!” Ugh. Eye roll.
No. She won’t miss the mess, and YES - she’s tired of cleaning up after people who are perfectly capable of cleaning up after themselves. Will she miss her kids? Of course. But she won’t miss feeling underappreciated, overworked and exhausted. That, I’m fairly confident, she won’t miss. I felt a kinship with her - that in her desire to express frustration with her reality - people felt the need to comment that she shouldn’t feel that way. She absolutely can, and should, be able to vent to her “village” without reproach. It ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.
If you know me, you know I tell it like it is, and though I have sunshine and rainbows, I’ve also got the other less colorful stuff too, like anyone. I could only post the perfect moments, but where’s the solidarity in that?
Case in point - here is my post on Facebook from the other day:
Public FB post: 72°, wine with a friend, Colorado sunshine, kids playing in gorgeous new backyard. #blessed
Real life FB post: cleverly obscure fighting sister from view and pretend you can’t hear repeated fights over the same damn toy and the incessant requests for water, snacks and Kleenex. #notenoughwineinmyhouse
I could have just posted the first part, and gotten lots of “likes” and “loves” and everyone could assume that the situation was 100% peachy. Was it great? Yes. But there was more to it than the serene photo shows, and I wasn’t afraid to share it. Fighting sisters were a part of the scene.
Life is not black and white and it’s not good or bad - it simply is. Some days have more good than bad. But we are doing a disservice to each other if we only present the “Facebook perfect” moments. We connect with people by communicating with them: I feel a rush of support and happiness when someone identifies with something I’ve said, even if it’s about something not so great. It’s what connects us, our experiences.
There is a strange kind of shame in acknowledging this time in life for exactly what it is: challenging, messy, exhausting, worrisome and a bit like a Cat 4 hurricane. You know what? Own it. It’s your damn hurricane, girl. This is your circus and these are your monkeys.
So, if you’re tempted to tell someone “you’re going to miss this,” I encourage you to think twice. Consider responding with a supportive “I remember those days - they were great, but hard!” Buy that mom some wine. Tell her she’s doing a great job. Tell her it’s worth it. Tell her that she’s in the thick of it, and you’ve got her back if she needs you. That’s what she needs to hear.