1. Cherish These Moments…because one day your kids will be GONE.”
We’ve all heard these words, or similar, at some point or another. Words offered by well meaning people, who have since graduated from their child rearing years. Words from the other side, so to speak.
Is there anything wrong with this advice? Absolutely not.
In fact, every time we hear this truth, the cruel dagger of time sinks deeper into our souls, reminding us that one day we’ll have to watch them leave.
Which brings me to my next point.
We know! For the love of our sanity, please consider the timing of this advice. The ONLY time I seem to hear these words are immediately after I’ve expressed a current frustration or struggle as a parent. One of my kids is screaming for electronics like a junkie needing their next fix, one is possibly murdering his brother downstairs, one has Common Core Math, and my 3yr old is peeing on the carpet. I say, “Man, this is crazy hard.”
Then along you come with your, “Cherish these moments- they’ll be gone before you know it.”
What? What moments, Karen!? Shall I pull out a journal and write with affection about how many paper towels I had to step on to soak up my child’s urine? Perhaps I should take a moment to consider how precious this is, as the fumes of pee pee fill my nostrils. Maybe, while I’m hiding in my closet eating a couple of my kids leftover chicken nuggets for dinner, wiping away tears with a dirty sock (because I have more dirty laundry than toilet paper squares), I should ruminate on how one day I’ll miss the puddles of piddle and children screaming for my servitude.
You must be rolling your eyes right now, because obviously, those weren’t the moments you were referring to.
Because your timing might be a little bit off. You see, when you tell us to ‘Cherish These Moments’ while we’re in the trenches, it can have the same effect as kicking us while we’re down. Whether you realize/intend it or not, these words can feel laced with a, “Shame on you for taking these kids for granted.” “You shouldn’t complain with a house full of blessings.” Ouch! Please understand that we can cherish the moments while also counting down the days until they can wipe their own butts.
2. “You’re Not Doing (?), Are You? Because (list all of your google references…)”
Have you ever posted a fun picture of your kid doing something, let’s say playing outside? Sure. Sure you have. How do most people react? You get a like here, a few loves there, maybe even a sweet comment about how big they’re getting.
Things are going well, until about 9pm, when you receive a notification. Someone has left a comment.
“I noticed Max is (whatever they noticed), and I just hope you’re not (doing the thing that you’ve obviously already done). I’ve been reading that (that thing) could really cause harm to them. You should probably (stop that thing) if you really love them. I’m not telling you how to parent, I just care. Here’s some educational reading for you: www. InfoOnThatThing .com, www. WhyYouSuckAtParenting .com, www. DidntCheckTheirSource .com, www. TryingToPaintTheirOpinionAsFact .com…”
You’ve had a really long day, trying your hardest and doing your best and now feel publicly chided. They’ve totally ruined your Gilmore Girls Netflix binge! Who does this person think they are? They CARE!? You’ve only ever spoken 3 sentences to one another! You posted it because Grandma and Grandpa MISS them and you’re trying to brighten their day. So you stalk Doctor Amateur’s FB for a while and fantasize ways to publicly shame them back. After an hour of fuming, plotting and venting to your bug-eyed spouse,
you finally calm down enough to realize it’s not worth it. Dr. Phil already moved on to grace someone else with their invaluable knowledge. Instead, you write a diplomatic, “Thanks for your opinion.”
First of all, if you truly have a concern- private message/text them. Otherwise, it just seems like you want to publicly humiliate them while simultaneously painting yourself as Mother Teresa, come to rescue the wayward mom.
Secondly, check your relationship. Do you know them? How well do you know them? Well enough to make parenting suggestions? No? Then perhaps reconsider pushing that social boundary, mm-k.
3. “You’ll Have Plenty of Silence One Day”
Is this meant to be encouragement? Or some form of warning…?
Is this the same silence you’re super sad about because your kids are grown and out of the house? Because that silence sounds depressing and definitely not the kind I should look forward to. Are you telling me to enjoy the painful overstimulation roller coaster I’m on before I’m deprived of stimuli all together? Or maybe you’re suggesting I can somehow catch up on the silence in the future? Which, btw, is like telling a sleep deprived person that one day they’ll get plenty of sleep. Does this mean I won’t need sleep in the meantime…for survival?
In the same way, you might long for more noise in a period of incessant silence, one also longs for silence in a period of incessant noise. Please be sensitive to that. This phrase holds no comfort, and honestly makes no logical sense in light of our circumstance.
4. “Be Grateful You’re Not Worse Off!”
Have you ever been expressing your frustration or sadness in a situation, only to have the receiver of your venting respond with, “It could be worse.”? Of course you have. It’s a super common way people respond to someone going through a tough time. It’s meant to be a reminder of all the good things in your life, encouraging you not to get hung up on whatever it is that’s upsetting you. You might even respond with, “You’re right. This is nothing compared to what some people are going through.”
The issue I have here is that it invalidates a persons individual experience. As if to say, because Debra is a recent widow, you shouldn’t be frustrated about the strain in your marriage. Or because there are children starving in Africa, you shouldn’t be so worried about the financial burden of having to feed your kids at home during what should be the school year. Because it could be worse.
Have you ever seen the animated Pixar movie Inside Out? It speaks to ANY age and it’s a beautiful illustration of the functions and value of our emotions! The film used Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, as a consultant to assure that the messages about emotion are consistent with scientific research. You can read a great article about it here.
In the article it talks about not forcing happiness. This tactic does not help someone deal with the stresses and transitions in life, but rather can lead to feelings of isolation and anger. It also speaks about sadness being vital to our well-being. It is very important that we learn to embrace, rather than suppress tough emotions. This cannot happen if the person they’re sharing with minimizes and pushes aside the situation. Instead of telling someone things could be worse, try to acknowledge and validate what they are feeling, and assure them it’s okay to have those feelings.
It’s time to retire, “It could be worse.”
This is where most of us struggle. We are scrolling through social media and see our mom friend/acquaintance struggling. Perhaps it’s expressed through humor, so as not to appear as a Debbie Downer. Or maybe they share an article that hints at what might be going on in their life. Maybe you’ve even seen a straight forward post about the unique challenges of being quarantined with young children, a husband working from home, and nowhere to go….
and then keep scrolling.
Why is that harmful? Surely someone else will reach out. Surely we are all dealing with our own troubles. Everyone is under stress. What could you really say anyway?
That leads me to my final topic.
What Can You Say?
- Comment with a Funny Gif. I’m serious. Sometimes all we can do is laugh about a situation. Don’t be lackadaisical about it though. Hunt for the perfect Gif. One you suspect might make them choke on whatever they’re drinking. If they aren’t struggling for air, you aren’t doing it right. Then again, if they are struggling for air, they might have Covid-19. And that’s no laughing matter.
2. Commiserate with them. Don’t attempt to make them feel better. Don’t try to fix it. Use phrases like, “Well ain’t that a kick in the teeth!” or “How has that not pushed you to murder?” These statements are validating, and help a person to feel heard. Just having one other person sit in the crumminess with them can feel good.
3. Pray for them. WAIT! Don’t skip this. It’s not what you think. Of course you should always pray for your friends and struggling people. What I mean here is that you type out your prayer right then and there and send it in a comment, private message or text. Just as if you were speaking the prayer out loud with them. “Heavenly Father, (My friend) is hurting right now. I lift her and this situation up to You. Please give her comfort and wisdom as she walks through this. I ask this in Jesus name. Amen.” BAM. It’s an upgrade from “Praying for you!” Nothing wrong with that. But letting them in on your prayer assures them that you’ve done it, and lets them know what they can expect from God who answers our prayers.”
4. Take Action!
*Drop off some items on her porch that will help occupy her kids. Don’t live nearby? Amazon is a beautiful thing! (When they’re back to a full capacity service, of course.) Think of things they can do independently. (Non-messy art supplies, sidewalk chalk, outdoor toys, easy group games, etc.) That should buy her some time without hearing, “I’M BORED!” for the hundredth time, and maybe even allow her a small pocket of “me time”.
Speaking of “Me Time”, consider putting together a self-care package for that ragged Mom. (Bath bombs/salt, face mask, pretty nail polish, tasty new tea, fuzzy socks, a cozy blanket, CHOCOLATE!) Get creative. The thoughtfulness alone will lift her spirits.
*Write her an encouraging card and mail it. It feels different than the instant message or text. It shows you took the extra effort and time to lift her up.
*If it’s a close friend, consider planning a Facetime with them. Make sure it’s not a huge commitment. Even offer a short time frame. “Would you be available for maybe ten minutes sometime this week to Facetime? I just want to touch in with you. I miss your face!” You might be surprised how refreshing that small connection can be.
5. Affirmation: Make sure to let your friends know that you see them, you hear them, and that they are doing a Great Job!
There you have it! Take it or leave it. (But you should probably take it…)
Happy Quarantining to You!