Jan 042012
 

Don't Carpe Diem

Every time I’m out with my kids – this seems to happen:

An older woman stops us, puts her hand over her heart and says something like, “Oh– Enjoy every moment. This time goes by so fast.”

Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc.

I know that this message is right and good. But as 2011 closes, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. 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.

I think parenting young children (and old ones, I’ve heard) is a little like 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. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it’s hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. 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.

And so I think that 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.

Now. I’m not suggesting that the sweet old ladies who tell me to ENJOY MYSELF be thrown from a mountain. These are wonderful ladies. Monkees, probably. But last week, a woman approached me in the Target line and said the following: “Sugar, I hope you are enjoying this. I loved every single second of parenting my two girls. Every single moment. These days go by so fast.”

At that particular moment, Amma had swiped a bra from the cart and arranged  it over her sweater, while sucking a lollipop undoubtedly found on the ground. She also had three shop-lifted clip-on neon feathers stuck in her hair. She looked exactly like a contestant from Toddlers and Tiaras. A losing contestant. I couldn’t find Chase anywhere, and Tish was sucking the pen from the credit card machine  WHILE the woman in front of me was trying to use it. And so I just looked at the woman, smiled and said, “Thank you. Yes. Me too. I am enjoying every single moment. Especially this one. Yes. Thank you.”

That’s not exactly what I wanted to say, though.

There was a famous writer who, when asked if she loved writing, replied, “No. but I love having written.” What I wanted to say to this sweet woman was, “Are you sure? Are you sure you don’t mean you love having parented?”

I love having written. And I love having parented. My favorite part of each day is when the kids are put to sleep (to bed) and Craig and I sink into the couch to watch some quality TV, like Celebrity Wife Swap, and congratulate each other on a job well done. Or a job done, at least.

Every time I write a post like this, I get emails suggesting that I’m being negative. I have received this particular message four or five times – G, if you can’t handle the three you have, why do you want a fourth?

That one always stings, and I don’t think it’s quite fair. Parenting is hard. Just like lots of important jobs are hard. Why is it that the second a mother admits that it’s hard, people feel the need to suggest that maybe she’s not doing it right? Or that she certainly shouldn’t add more to her load. Maybe the fact that it’s so hard means she IS doing it right…in her own way…and she happens to be honest.

Craig is a software salesman. It’s a hard job in this economy. And he comes home each day and talks a little bit about how hard it is. And I don’t ever feel the need to suggest that he’s not doing it right, or that he’s negative for noticing that it’s hard, or that maybe he shouldn’t even consider taking on more responsibility. And I doubt anybody comes by his office to make sure he’s ENJOYING HIMSELF. I doubt his boss peeks in his office and says: “This career stuff…it goes  so fast…ARE YOU ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT IN THERE, CRAIG???? THE FISCAL YEAR FLIES BY!! CARPE DIEM, CRAIG!”

My point is this. I used to worry that not only was I failing to do a good enough job at parenting, but that I wasn’t enjoying it enough. Double failure.  I felt guilty because I wasn’t in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn’t MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing. I felt guilty because honestly, I was tired and cranky and ready for the day to be over quite often. And because I knew that one day, I’d wake up and the kids would be gone, and I’d be the old lady in the grocery store with my hand over my heart. Would I be able to say I enjoyed every moment? No.

But the fact remains that I will be that nostalgic lady. I just hope to be one with a clear memory. And here’s what I hope to say to the younger mama gritting her teeth in line:

 “It’s helluva hard, isn’t it? You’re a good mom, I can tell. And I like your kids, especially that one peeing in the corner. She’s my favorite. Carry on, warrior. Six hours till bedtime.” And hopefully, every once in a while, I’ll add– “Let me pick up that grocery bill for ya, sister. Go put those kids in the van and pull on up- I’ll have them bring your groceries out.”

Anyway. Clearly, Carpe Diem doesn’t work for me.I can’t even carpe fifteen minutes in a row, so a whole diem is out of the question.

Here’s what does work for me:

There are two different types of time. Chronos time is what we live in. It’s regular time, it’s one minute at a time, it’s staring down the clock till bedtime time, it’s ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it’s four screaming minutes in time out time, it’s two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.

Then there’s Kairos time. Kairos is God’s time. It’s time outside of time. It’s metaphysical time. Kairos is those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day, and I cherish them.

Like when I actually stop what I’m doing and really look at Tish. I notice how perfectly smooth and brownish her skin is.  I notice the perfect curves of her teeny elf mouth and her asianish brown eyes, and I breathe in her soft Tishy smell. In these moments, I see that her mouth is moving but I can’t hear her because all I can think is – This is the first time I’ve really seen Tish all day, and my God – she is so beautiful. Kairos.

Like when I’m stuck in chronos time in the grocery line and I’m haggard and annoyed and angry at the slow check-out clerk. And then I look at my cart and I’m transported out of chronos. And suddenly I notice the piles of healthy food I’ll feed my children to grow their bodies and minds and I remember that most of the world’s mamas would kill for this opportunity. This chance to stand in a grocery line with enough money to pay. And I just stare at my cart. At the abundance. The bounty. Thank you, God. Kairos.

Or when I curl up in my cozy bed with Theo asleep at my feet and Craig asleep by my side and I listen to  them both breathing. And for a moment, I think- how did a girl like me get so lucky? To go to bed each night surrounded by this breath, this love, this peace, this warmth? Kairos.

These kairos moments leave as fast as they come- but I mark them. I say the word kairos in my head each time I leave chronos. And at the end of the day, I don’t remember exactly what my kairos moments were, but I remember I had them. And that makes the pain of the daily parenting climb worth it.

If I had a couple Kairos moments during the day, I call it a success.

Carpe a couple of Kairoses a day.

Good enough for me.

  2,494 Responses to “2011 Lesson #2 : Don’t Carpe Diem”

  1. […] P.S. This is my new favorite writer and blogger. She’s not new to the world, but she’s new to me. Bless her messed up life and her open heart and gorgeous writing. This post made me feel like I was perfect in my skin. Do yourself a favor and read it now: Don’t Carpe Diem. […]

  2. Life is not measured in the number of breaths we take but rather in the moments that take our breath away…every beautiful, hideous, relaxing and exhausting moment. Life…kairos! Great, thoughtful piece. Thanks!

  3. Thanks so much for writing this post. …i so needed to read something like this. I will go to bed tonight saying kairos!
    Thankyou for being honest and real and reminding us how lucky we really are.
    Hugs to you fellow hardworking mumma.

  4. Thank you so much for this article.. I am very new mom, it’s our 19th day together with my little boy and I’ve been feeling extremely guilty about “not enjoying every moment”.. Especially when my husband seems to be doing it so easily and I am still struggling between soreness in my body, sleep deprivation and getting used to the fact that being a new mom isn’t as easy as being pregnant ( I had enjoyed my pregnancy very much, even remember the compulsory one month bed-rest in the first trimester with a smile..)

    In short, thank you for introducing me to the concept of Kairos, i will start with cherishing my one little Kairos each day and being proud of my son and myself :)

  5. Sometimes I just need to read this again. thank you for your kairos time 😉

  6. I laughed the entire way through this post. I’m pretty sure it’s the best thing I’ve read ALL week, month, year, whatever. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. Because I definitely have wanted to throw ladies like that off the mountain. Actually, I’ve also wanted to throw my husband off the mountain on occasion. I feel like this lovely piece of yours enriched my life so much that you could qualify as my new best friend. I feel better about my motherhood after that. Thank you SO MUCH! Warrior on. (Also, I hope you don’t mind, I’m sharing this post EVERYWHERE. I will plaster the internet with it.)
    Much love,
    Shana

    • Shana, I can totally relate to your commenting that your husband does this, too. Haha! It’s bad enough when a stranger does it but when your husband makes you feel like the worst mother because you wanted to run away after a trip home at the end of the day with two screaming and fighting kids the whole way, it’s worse. The kairos moment in that is he survived the day! HAHA!

  7. I have been a mom for over 20 years. My oldest is 22, my youngest 3. 7 kids in total.
    In my own experience, it doesn’t matter how much you ‘hold on to’ or ‘enjoy’ the moments. When your kids leave home, it feels like someone steals that time away. Like a robbery has occurred. That time is suddenly gone, and for me the reality hit:
    We don’t own them. We have them for a short time. We have a duty to teach, train, and love them. There is a certain joy in all of it. Each stage is challenging & rewarding. I miss my big kids being teens. I don’t miss them being toddlers, although I loved that stage, too. I look forward with them to when they have their own families. Lord willing I can be there for that.

    Thanks for this post.

  8. THIS! The kid peeing in the corner will always be my favorite too! You are sublime. Thank you…

  9. Thank you so much for this. It is really helping me to not beat myself up for getting discouraged about parenting and to actually enjoy my kids so much more. I noticed when I started seizing those rare moments those moments actually increased! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  10. thanks momastery… I just needed it. I went on to read

  11. […] are a billion posts from a billion mommy bloggers rolling two billion eyeballs at the sweet old lady sharing this thought while your kid has a tantrum because you won’t let […]

  12. You gave me a Kairos moment by sharing this post. Since my son was 4 months old, I have found myself wishing for the day he turns 18 (he is 12 now… six years to go). The guilt has plagued me at times, but I am thankful that today, I can be honest. And through honesty, perhaps I can enjoy just one more day sober. Thanks for your transparency – I got a ‘soul rub’ because of it.

  13. Thank you! You Nailed it totally. It is those kiaros moments that pull you through. Raising children is incredibly difficult. Thank you for honestly expressing this.

  14. […]  This woman is amazing.  I read one of her posts and cried SO HARD because I was laughing so hard and wow, I just needed it.  I went on to read […]

  15. I followed a link to your page, this post from a christianitytoday.com article and I am so thankful! With tears streaming, I cannot thank you enough for getting MY thoughts out of my head and putting them into words. It was a choice for this Momma to stay home too (Nearly 10 year career in education). I am struggling to enjoy the moments with my 3 little gems 6 and under. My world will be a better place because of this post. Thank you G.

  16. […] like to introduce you to Glennon Melton at Momastery.  This is the first blog I read of hers, about how hard it is to seize every lovely moment with your […]

  17. […] one of those Kairos moments with each of them — because time really does pass too fast! ((This article is one of my favorites on motherhood. It explains much of how I feel, and it makes me laugh […]

  18. […] wrote a post called Don’t Carpe Diem and it helped me so […]

  19. […] now and enjoy each moment because they are often so fleeting.  If you haven’t read the article Don’t Carpe Diem by Glennon Melton, I highly recommend it.  I love how she talks about finding the brief moments in […]

  20. […] is a post from one of my favorite blogs, Momastery, called “Don’t Carpe Diem“. The author introduces her idea of “carpe kairos”, which means to cherish those […]

  21. G, I loved this 3 years ago and I still love it today. My boys are now 9 & 11 and your words resonate today, just like then. I searched out this post this morning so I can share it with a struggling mom. She needs permission right now to rant about how hard parenting is right now, today, in her season of little sleep and no breaks. She loves and cherishes her girls but right now, all is brutiful. Thank you G for your mission of truth-telling and lifting up of all the sisters, and the brothers. The world is better because you are in it. Warrior on!

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