Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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The Clock Stands Still While Time Is Flying

The single most annoying thing smug parents told me when I was pregnant with Violet was "sleep while you still can". As if I could store sleep in my dresser drawer and pull it out during those long nights when the kid just won't shut up already and go to sleep. The second most annoying thing well-intentioned procreators advised upon hearing I was going to be a mom for the first time was to take it all in because "it goes so fast and they grow up in the blink of an eye."

Serge reminded me of this when he wrote The Time Flies Baby and Everything Else Blues over on Dadding, which happens to contain the greatest run-on sentence I have ever had the pleasure of reading. But yeah, he talks about all the parents who came before who tell you that your kids will be grown up before you know it so often you'd think they're making a commission every time they give some newbie pop or mom The Business.

But I get it. I understand people say these things because they mean well and because these things are true but this kind of parenting advice is kind of like trying to explain to someone who has never given birth what labor feels like. You just have to experience that kind of thing before you can really wrap your head around it. No amount of someone else yapping about it will really do the experience justice.

All this to say that everyone is right. Time is flying... generally speaking. But I also find myself eyeballing the clock in desperate anticipation of nap time or bed time or any damn time that involves mom having alone time. Yet I am acutely aware of the preciousness of each moment with my babies. At least a billion times a day either Violet or Henry does something that makes my heart thump harder than it ever did in high school when I passed Josh Roberts at his locker and he smiled at me.

Yesterday I went in to collect Violet from her room after I heard her telltale chattering that signifies she is awake. I opened the door and there she was, standing in the middle of the room staring intently at three fingers she was holding up in the manner a child would to signify they are 3-years-old. "Look, mom!" She shouted excitedly. "I found a double-you!"

Or Henry, my guy, smiling bashfully when I arrive at his crib, so excited to see me that he thrashes around violently, somersaulting and slamming into the bars of his bed as if to say, "You! You're here again! I can't believe we've run into each other again like this! I am so happy to see you!" Nobody has ever been that excited to see me in my life.

It's an odd state of emotions, to be so aware of the fleeting preciousness I am gifted with on daily basis for these few short years while they're young and yet still be a champion clock-watcher, frantically eyeballing the big hand as it closes in on bedtime hour. But I guess that's the definition of motherhood? Exhausted gratitude? But really, if I'm honest, gratitude doesn't often seep into my exhausted state. Mostly I am at the end of my rope, grumbling about how if I have to change one more poopy diaper, dammit...

But even then, even when I'm being an edgy, exhausted asshole, I know deep down that when my babies are out in the world with lives of their own and only an hour (if I'm lucky) devoted to a phone call with dumb old mom every Sunday I will desperately miss these frantic, exhausting, diaper changing days. And I so want to relish each and every single damn moment like it's a cheese-drenched tortilla chip but I don't. I just shove the delicious chip in my mouth so fast I damn near swallow it whole and it's gone before I even had a chance to taste it, let alone savor it.

It's just how this crazy parenting gig goes, I guess.

Reader Comments (15)

In case you missed it, or just want to read it again, I liked this article originally from Momastery about chronos versus kairos time as a parent. We treasure having parented, not parenting, if that makes sense. Trying to enjoy every moment will just make your head hurt, but looking back, you'll enjoy the moments you lived through, especially if you can be in the moment (ahahaha as if anyone can do this very well all the time).

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

Monica you are so great at putting the thoughts in everyone else's head down on paper. For years I have told my mother she and my dad are going to have a hard time when my youngest brother goes off to college (now in just a few short months) she always told me she didnt think that was going to be her. But yesterday she told me how much she is savoring every minute with him b/c it is real to her now that he really will be gone soon and her house will be empty.

There isnt anything you can do or say to make a person experience a time in there life when the will "get it" They have to get to that time on there own. Everyone does which is why there are so many kids repeating their parents mistakes.

I think you are not giving yourself enough credit. I think if you were really being an asshole all the time you would be such a photo whore ;) You know you will miss these days which I think is obv part of the reason you go about documenting so much and so well I might add.

You will always wish you did more when you are in a different stage of your life but then again isnt that a big part of being a parent?

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

P.S. I just noticed the Latest on Babble links. That is great. I always want to read all of your and Serge's stuff by I have a hard time wadding through all the other authors to find you guys. Thanks :)

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Awesome post. This is a great piece that you may enjoy too!

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Excellent post, Monica. I agree with absolutely every single word you wrote!

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

Exactly how I feel. My two are a similar age as yours, and I stay at home with them and I am in a CONSTANT state of guilt/suffocation... I have been enjoying my son's babyhood as I don't want to have another baby, but I cannot wait until he's in preschool so I have some time to study/work... My three year old is amazing and so bright and funny yet I'm quick to get cross with her for no good enough reasons just coz I'm so tired and all I do all day every day is kids and nappies and supermarkets and dinner making and sweeping and feeding and I wish that being at home with them was as relaxing and rewarding as I had hoped... But it's bloody hard work! I feel really overwhelmed with the chaos at the moment and am holding on to the fact my daughter will be in school every day until after lunch time from September (she's only in 3 short mornings a week at the moment), and I will have more time. Then it won't be long until my son can go to preschool. But I don't NOT want them here. The Guilt! And it's not like I'm yearning to get back to work. I'm a preschool teacher... Ugh. More kids. I think I need to find something not to do with children for a while... And what's making life harder at the moment is that I'm trying hard to make time to exercise (usually running. with at least one child with me), which means household things are getting neglected. But if I'm not feeling fit and healthy how can I cope with the stress? And I feel selfish. For exercising? I find it really fucking hard to enjoy it all at the moment with them so young and being so close and needed by them... I am counting on it being easier soon. Was that even what you were saying? I think I went off on my own tangent... Totally unrelated - I read the story of how you and Serge met this morning. What a story! I really respect you guys for being really open with what goes on in your marriage. It helps me look at what goes on in mine. I hope it helps you guys to put it out there, because it helps me that you do! I wish you guys all the patience and perseverance and clear thinking you need to work through the next while and come out the other side better for it all.

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

@Steph - Thank you. I really appreciate your comment. Sounds like we're dealing with the two kids of the same age. It's tough stuff, man. Screw housework. Let it go and do what you gotta do to get through the day, you know?

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonicaBielanko

I love this post (and the comments) I so, so get this...the frustration and resentment bubbles up no matter how hard I try to stop it. The wild love I feel for my kids is always there, but I can so relate to everything you are saying. Do you follow Catherine Newman? Your writing reminds me of her, the way you describe the emotions - the conflicting emotions is similar to me. Thanks for the raw honesty, it really helps me feel a little less crazy, I mean alone. ;)

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Don't beat yourself up. Mothers have always felt this way! I remember playing cars and Batman and Power Rangers (two boys, you know) and wanting to do ANYTHING ELSE! And my 1st born will be 22 years old on Friday. Did the time fly? Some of it did but you know what? You'll only remember the fun stuff. Memories take on a different patina with age! My advice to all young mothers is be kinder to yourself.

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Monica, you are honest and wonderful and bitchin' and fabulous AND no doubt a fantastic parent, along with Serge. Mmmkay? Heh heh. Don't beat yourself up over these ultimately minuscule things.

I was a child not so long ago (okay, so not really, I turned 27 recently -- bwah! -- but the mid-90s were only yesterday somehow, heh heh) and had a pretty great childhood, in spite of spending a significant part of it in the 1990s Yugoslav wars and subsequently losing my dad in what was a tragic civilian death in November 1993. And what I can tell you is that even during that time of terror and uncertainty, when my parents were freaking out about what they would do and how they could possibly protect us -- and there were bouts of my brother and me staying with friends in Zagreb instead of in our hard-hit hometown of Karlovac with our folks -- all I remember is the warmth and the love they gave, how hard they tried to make sure that war didn't consume the quotidian of our lives even while it stubbornly raged all around us and fucked so much shit up and stopped us from having a truly innocent childhood. I don't think about the times mum and dad were "edgy, exhausted assholes" -- and there were times when they were, of course, a perfectly natural thing for any and all parents -- because those times don't matter; they're more amusing more than anything, à la "Remember the time mama and dad got pissed over _____, hahah."

What always, but ALWAYS sticks out, are those aching fragments of memories and moments where you're filled to bursting with love and glee, when you knew/know in any given moment how much your parents love you and how much YOU love them. My parents were mildly strict and disciplinary, but simultaneously warm and affectionate and doting. I always think, as pissed off as I still sometimes get over the fact dad was a tragic victim of that bullshit war ("time heals all wounds" my ass), that we lost someone as amazing and peace-loving as he was in the prime of his life (he was only 36), I ultimately cherish that I had him for the first almost nine years of my life, that he coloured our lives with so much love and laughter and brilliance. What else can I do?

Violet and Henry will remember the love, laughter and brilliance that YOU and Serge gave and will continue to give them in their formative years long after they have flown the coop and become adults. Trust.

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPretzel Thief

"...find myself eyeballing the clock in desperate anticipation of nap time or bed time or any damn time that involves mom having alone time. Yet I am acutely aware of the preciousness of each moment with my babies. At least a billion times a day either Violet or Henry does something that makes my heart thump harder than it ever did in high school when I passed Josh Roberts at his locker and he smiled at me."

Also some pretty brilliant sentences! How did you get inside my head? I'm weeping at how accurately you've described my own struggle with the contradicting emotions of motherhood. It's a total mind-f*ck, isn't it? But you've managed to put it to words better than just about anyone else I've read -- thank you for that.

April 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusie

I'm sure I've been guilty of saying the "it goes so fast..." line, but when you get older and time starts speeding up it's kind of alarming, or at least it was for me, and you find yourself wanting to warn everyone! Nevermind the fact that I completely ignored that kind of thing when people said it to me. Actually I really did make a conscious effort to enjoy raising my kids, even the difficult phases, but I think it's completely normal for them to drive you crazy at the same time. And I'm pretty sure that's the way it is forever. After my ex and I separated my son lived with him for a year, then he moved back in with me when he was 16 and I was SO grateful to have him there that I spent many mind-numbing hours watching him play video games and listening to him talk about video games just so I could spend time with him. My kids are adults now and they both live 500 miles away, and I miss them like crazy - but I wouldn't go back to the poopy diapers for anything. I hate that they are so far away, but my son calls or texts me every day. My daughter is busier; she likes to call me when her GPS doesn't work and she needs directions, but I'll take anything I can get.

Anyway, don't beat yourself up about wanting some moments to pass more quickly than others; kids are exhausting! I love spending every moment I can with my grandsons, but when I'm trying to put a very talkative five-year-old to sleep it would be ok if that went a little faster.

April 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth B

I only have one currently who is going through this fun teething, walking, fussy/screaming stage right now and I have been struggling with as Susie called it "the contradicting emotions of motherhood". I love my little girl so much, but there are times when nap time or bed time can't come fast enough ... and then...I feel guilty that I feel that way. Like I should be enjoying it all - including the screaming because I won't let her pull all the tissues out of the box - because so many people I know make it look so incredibly easy. Add in working outside the home and I was pretty sure I was sucking up this motherhood thing. And yet, those five minutes when she thinks I am the funniest thing in the world ... those are the best.
Thank you - this made me feel not so alone today.

April 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeah B

Yep, you described exactly how it is with me. I desperately need mummy alone time but god knows i need those sloppy kisses and frantic hugs more then anything in this world. I get so caught up in everyday life.. work, house work, shopping, cooking etc etc i sometimes forget to just sit and play with the kids. I did this the other day, sat with my son and played cars with him. I was getting a bit glassy eyed towards the end LOL but the time spent together was awesome. I also love it when the kids run to the door if i have been out and throw themselves at me like its been 2 weeks instead of 2 hours. Im savouring this time before they grow taller then me and don't want as many (or any) cuddles!!

April 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

hi monica
since comments are off on your most recently post, i scrolled down to here. i recently started reading the blog 'sweet fine day' and thought you might enjoy it too... she writes about life with kids, work, getting older... all stuff i'm contemplating these days.

April 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLena

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