It occured to me, late, late into last night (well morning actually) first as I was attempting to escape the death grip of my three year old holding my hand in his sleep, and then as I was crying as quietly as I could and blowing my nose into a receiving blanket (yeah, I know, but it was either that or my own pajamas) while trying to get my 15 month old down for the bazillionth time how much parenting platitudes are really unfair.
Take for example, the mother of all parenting platitudes: "This too shall pass." If I had a dollar for everytime I heard that one, I'd be knee deep in retirement funds. The sensible person in me knows that this platitude is true (the especially annoying bit about platitudes is, of course, that there is truth to them). The hopeless and exhausted and sobbing into a receiving blanket at 5 in the morning (having slept nary one bit) part of me says: "I've been getting this platitude for 15 months. So when's it fucking ending?!"
"Ohhhhh you'll miss this when they get older...". Okay - again, a grain of truth. There are so so many things I will miss when my smalls are large. So many baby things I achingly miss already, even. And it's certainly true that I will miss the cuddliness, the smallness, the snuggled-in-ness, the total trust in these babe-in-arms days. I, just like all parents before me, will miss all of the wonderfulness of my kids being wee littles. But I won't miss 15 and counting months of total lack of sleep (which, is torture, plain and simple). I won't miss day long tantrums. I won't miss being smacked or whacked or having to dodge flying toy projectiles. I won't miss the crap moments when I lose my shit/lose my lofty parenting ideals/lose myself in anger. I won't miss the parts where I fail miserably. This is the crap bit of my kids being small (though I'm sure the parts about me losing my shit and failing will continue to evilly pursue me throughout my time as a parent). At any rate - only a crazy person would miss those bits.
"Just wait til they're teenagers - you won't be able to wake them up!" Um, for starters, why would I want to wake them up? When they're teenagers I'm gonna be catching up, people. Take my word for this. They want to flunk out of highschool because they're sleepy? Not my problem. I'm sure they'll have a perfectly nice career at Tim Horton's - I hear they have a good benefits package. And again, as with above - right now - when I'm having elaborate night-time fantasies about running away in my pajamas until the car runs out of gas, then running alongside the road and raving like a crazed woman until someone picks me up and delivers me takes me to the hospital where they give me good the drugs (breastfeeding be damned) and let me sleep for awhile - I don't really CARE about NOT being able to wake them up at some distant time in my life.
The thing I hate the most about platitudes is that they aren't fair. For starters, they are almost always uttered by people we aren't in the thick of some parenting Hell. They know the bad stuff passes (and new bad stuff takes its place) but they aren't there now. And I firmly believe that just like women forget the pain of labour, we all tend to forget the painful life spots we've been in previously. So one might say the comments are coming from perspective. And one might also say they're coming from a place of parenting amnesia. Most likely it's both. Platitudes are meant, I think, to remind us to appreciate where we are in our lives. I get that. And, believe it or not, I do appreciate it. I appreciate so, so much about my time with my kids, who are, by and large, amazing, wonderful and delightful small creatures who have challenged me and helped me to grow in more ways than I them. But platitudes also have the effect of silencing us. Making us feel guilty, like we complain too much, like we shouldn't talk about the stuff that's hard. And I can't get behind that, as you all know. But most of all, platitudes aren't actually helpful. It's like telling someone who's loved one has died that 'the pain will pass.' It's true. But in the here and now of a painful reality, being told it will pass in some murky future isn't useful, and doesn't dull the crushing pain of the present. The same holds true for difficult parenting moments.
So the next time you might be thinking about doling out a parenting platitude - resist. It might be hard at first.... but this too shall pass.