Back when parenting was impossibly hard (like yesterday! Haha) I read an article about not subscribing to the need to Carpe Diem when it comes to raising small children. So often as a new parent (or not even a new parent) people who have done their parenting, whose kids have left home, who look back with nostalgia, say unhelpful things like “treasure every minute, it goes so fast.”
Of course that’s true and, as I watch my babies grow older and less cute, I see the truth in that. But with every “adorable age” comes a bucket load of trouble and it’s tough to see the diamonds at the coal face. Being told to love every minute just subscribes to the Perfect Parenting myth and puts unnecessary pressure on an already difficult task. As Glennon Melton writes in her post Don’t Carpe Diem:
It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life – while I’m raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.
She compares raising children to climbing Mount Everest: “Brave, adventurous souls try it because they’ve heard there’s magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments … Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.”
In my favourite bit of the articles she then says, “if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers — “ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU’LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN’T!” TRUST US!! IT’LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!” — those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.”
Instead of treasuring every painful moment, every tantrum and time out, Glennon Melton introduces the concept of Kairos time, God’s time: Moments of perfection to treasure amidst the chaos, as opposed to Chronos time, “the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.”
Kairos time is moment when you really see the children, love them with an immensity that is overwhelming. Even if the specific moments aren’t remembered after the event, just getting to the end of a day and knowing it had one or two moments of Kairos time in it is enough. It’s a beautiful article and it’s worth reading and rereading.
And this afternoon I had one of those moments. Sitting on a bench, watching the children scoot round the park as the late afternoon sun trickled through the trees and sparkled off the puddles, I had a moment of peace. Of being proud of my beautiful babies, of myself.
Of course, being me, I ruined It by suggesting that my daughter let her brother have a turn in front. Thus ensued half an hour of sulking and tears, and Mummy getting cross. My son went and made some big girl friends who helped him where his sister had before.
But I fought hard to keep my Kairos moment and not let the sulking spoil it. Because these moments are rare. In the article, Melton compares parenting to writing a novel – we enjoy having parented, much as a famous author once admitted to enjoying having written. That’s true for me usually too. But some days the words flow effortlessly and shine and sparkle, and some days the children do the same. Those are moments worth hanging on to.