“Enjoy it while they’re young!” says the random lady, while you’re holding the barfing baby, the screaming toddler, and two broken crackers.

We often get people who stop and ask the same questions:

“Are they all yours?!”

“Were you trying for a girl?”

“Did you do that on purpose?”

Sometimes all of the questions can feel repetitively annoying, and all strangers seem oblivious to the fact that my children can hear them…

But it also seems that every fourth stranger has a gift of reflecting on their own lives in that quick moment, and they often drop you a nugget of wisdom that needs to be stored in your pocket for all of the tomorrows.

Sometimes they are nuggets of what not to do. For instance, one time my neighbour, an older man close to retirement, simply counted up my children, then shook his head and sorrowfully said, “I wish I hadn’t worked so much and so hard when my kids were young.”

Heard it. Stored it. That’s a good nugget.

When my second son was born, my midwife came to see us. She weighed and examined him, and then looked at me with that same reflective glance, and simply said, “Be gentle with your firstborn, I’ll never forgive myself for how I treated my daughter when my son was born.”

One sentence. I never forgot that sentence, I needed to hear it at just that moment, and I still tell it to others so they can hold onto it too. My expectations for my first born were so high when a new baby came into the family, yet he was only 2, practically still a baby himself. Her words though have often rung in my ears right when I needed them. Nugget.

The other day we were at the outdoor public skating rink and this lady skated over to talk us. She asked the same typical questions and I politely answered.

She stood there smiling with her long beautiful dark hair under her bright red helmet, and proudly announced, “I’m turning 70 next month, you know!”

She told me how she is taking ballroom dancing classes with her friends, and she still goes skating with her son, except he’s 40 now.

It seemed like such a foreign concept. There she was all alone, skating a rink for however long she wanted to, then she would go and decide what to do next. And it probably included leisurely enjoying a sandwich at a restaurant while reading a book, with only herself to think about.

Of course she told me to “enjoy it when they were young,” the phrase everybody always says to moms with young children hanging all over them, but this time it sounded different to me.

She wasn’t wistfully dreaming of yesterday, or sadly dreaming of tomorrow.

She had enjoyed, and still was enjoying all of the parts. All of the stages and phases and eras.

I want to do that.

Lastly, she told me that she was never very good at all of the activities she did with her kids when they were young. But she loved playing with them, and having fun with them, and they loved doing all of the many different things WITH their mom.

The part about not being good at all of the athletics resonated with me, but that’s just not the point.

Our kids need to see us doing more than just chores; they need to see us play, they need to see us enjoy them, and they need to see us belly laugh everyday.

They need to see us joyfully embracing life and getting just as excited about sprinkles on top of a donut as they do.

But, don’t just do it for your kids. Do it for yourself too.

It’s a surefire way to keep your soul out of the doldrums of parenting.

So yes, I do want to play catch inside the house, because it feels like we’re breaking all of the rules, even though I’m the one now in charge of making those kinds of rules.

And yes. I do want to push you on the swings, just one more time so I can hear that ridiculous carefree giggle of yours.

Because guess what kids. You are a lot of work, but you also bring so much joy to my soul.

So let’s laugh, and play, and enjoy this business of when you are young.

Because at the very end of all of this, I want to be able to honestly say that I did indeed, enjoy it all.

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