In defense of the old lady in the market

Okay, it's the first day of the school year here and Sam just surpassed me in height and Maddy's leaving home at the end of the year and Lauren's half a world away. So I feel like one of those ladies in the market: time passes so quickly! Sunrise! Sunset! and every other true and cheesy platitude about time and passing and children.

I'm chatting with a friend who will be moving back to the States this year. When you've got a big move like that in your future, it's easy to start feeling wanderlusty and impatient to just do it already--to spend your time scouring real estate listings and researching schools for the kids and thinking about all the nexts.

"Are you getting anxious to go?" 

"No, not really. I'm trying to think more about making the most of every day since we probably won't get the chance to live here ever again, not full time. I don't know, maybe we'll visit. There's so much we wanted to do and haven't yet."

Later, the conversation turns to our kids, motherhood, parenting angst and awe. She asks about my plans in the coming years (so tactfully and delicately dancing around the inquiry “so are you done with your graduate work yet?”) and I land on the awareness once again that I am in the final three years of in-residence motherhood.

I know it's kind of a thing to vent about old ladies in the supermarket who offer their inevitable and insistent advice to “enjoy every moment” and “time goes so fast.” And I get it, I really do. I laughed in recognition with that whole post and others like it! When you’re stuck in the trenches of what amounts to mommy boot camp with sometimes mercurial little sergeants to answer to—well those days, as Glennon hilariously articulated in that post last year, the last thing you want on your exhausting Everest climb of parenthood is “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!”

The Back Room, Kim English

The Back Room, Kim English

But what I’m beginning to understand is we might have it all wrong with that analogy. Maybe they’re not perky, oblivious little cheerleaders, these ladies in the market. Maybe instead they're exhausted, exhilarated, battle-scarred climbers that we meet in passing as they descend from the peak while we trudge upwards. Their wisdom isn’t meant to shame us, it’s meant to guide us and avoid some rocky regrets and unnecessary falls. If I met early-mama Annie now, do you know what I’d tell her? Take it easy. Enjoy the 3-year-old tyrants and the talkative 4s. Snuggle those babies every second you can. And future Annie would probably tell me to get up from my desk and go play a game with the lounging teens downstairs. Or tuck them in bed like I used to. The closer I get to the summit (whatever, wherever, whenever that is) the more I can confirm the old lady market advice as wisdom. It does go so fast; it’s just a fraction of our years. As Gretchen Rubin put it, the days are long but the years are short:

There were years, early on, when I might have felt wanderlusty and impatient about getting to the finish line but I find I'm more like my friend, trying to savor the last moments in Motherland. I probably won't get the chance to live here ever again, not full time. There's so much I wanted to do.

I do hear Nanaland is absolutely spectacular, though I'm not booking that trip for quite some time. But I am practicing my old lady market technique, as you can tell.