What the Little Old Lady Said

I was so busy corralling my children down the grocery store aisle that I almost ran into the old woman in front of us. Four children under age five made us quite a spectacle in the big city where we lived. She smiled at us and patted my arm. “Treasure every moment, dear. Time passes so quickly.” I could only smile weakly and reply, “Starting when?”

If you have little ones at home every day seems like a hundred hours long. But around First Grade somebody hits a cosmic fast forward button and before you know it they are passing the sacrament and taking Driver’s Ed and you are standing there with a bewildered look whining, “I swear she was just starting preschool about five minutes ago.”

I imagine in another five minutes I will have children leaving for missions and getting married. Five minutes after that I will be a wrinkly grey Granny planning trips to see my grandbabies.

I am luckier than most, I suppose, because I waited a nice long time before I had babies five and six (Heavenly Father’s idea, not mine). I see how fast my older ones are growing and it makes me appreciate my two little preschoolers that much more. I don’t wish the days away like I did when it felt like my house was Babyville Central; when my house was full of crying voices (including mine) and all our days ran together punctuated only by church and storytime at the library.

I don’t know why we can’t just live in the moment and appreciate it for its beauty. Instead we compare and complain and wish it away. And then one day we realize how lovely and magical it all was. We want to tell people, anyone, that we should savor it; Savor the spit-up and the crayon on the walls and the bikes left out on the front lawn. Savor the youth and energy of our children, of ourselves. We want to tell people that it does go so fast and it is such a splendid, beautiful, messy gift.

So we stop a haggard young mother at the grocery store and tell her what we know. And hopefully, maybe just for a minute, she will understand. Maybe she will stop and look–really look–at her beautiful babies and love them in that moment.

About Hildie

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves. After years of "Mommy this", "Mommy that" Hildie is delighted to finally be waking her brain up for some other use.

38 thoughts on “What the Little Old Lady Said

  1. The days of young motherhood are like the movie Groundhog Day–same old same old over again. And then they’re gone. From my vantage point of having five kids with the first just hitting her tween stride (11), these days seem like the ones of my mission: the days are LONG and exhausting, but the months and years blink by. There are moments when I can just sit down and color with the two year old and not wish the day away. But those moments tend to be fleeting. I seem best able to look at my beautiful babies once they are sleeping, that quiet interval between when they fall asleep and I turn in is the most tender moment for me each night and when I am best able to marvel at the life these angels have transformed for me.

  2. This is so hard. I tell myself that having young children is like eating chocolate cake every day. It’s wonderful and sweet and everyone who is not eating cake tells me how delicious it looks, but it’s too much for me to appreciate because it’s what I’m eating all day every day.

    I look back at the pictures of when all of my kids were tiny and wish I could relive a day with them and have the energy I have now instead of the fatigue I felt then. It sort of sapped my ability to live in the moment.

  3. The perspective of age is a beautiful thing. As a new grandmother, here’s my suggestion.

    Find a moment (when the children are sleeping?) and stop and truly savor the joys of motherhood. Think of all the little things you are doing that are good and the simple things that make you happy. Write every one of them down. Do it maybe once a year.

    Then down the road when you’re looking back, you’ll know you found the joy in the moment. You’ll be able to recall the sweet little bits that made it a joyful journey. And you won’t regret it, thinking you didn’t enjoy it along the way.

  4. This was such an inspired blog for me today! I swear you wrote it just for me. This last week has been an EXTREMELY difficult one. Having just given birth to our third child, I came home from the hospital with a cold (I went into the hospital perfectly healthy), and then my whole family caught the cold, and long story short- the last three nights have been miserable with a newborn who is struggling to breath through a plugged nose, a 2 1/2 year old with croup, and a 5 year old with ear infections… But oh how I do love my children. And though I am completely overwhelmed with my current situation, I do appreciate these moments when my children so desperately need me. Its a fleeting thing, and it won’t last forever, but right now, my children need me, and that- if nothing else, helps me to feel appreciated and loved by not just my family, but by my Father in Heaven.

  5. Just last night, as I was falling asleep, the memory of my daughter’s birth (she’s almost 1 now) washed over me out of the blue. For the first time, I cried at the beauty of it. I thought for sure I’d cry when she was born, but I didn’t. I was so tired, so relieved to be done pushing, so relieved that she was breathing, but altogether too exhausted to tearfully rejoice over those things. I was wide-eyed and happy to touch her and look into those big eyes, but the emotion and the weight of it did not overtake me like I had thought it would. Maybe that’s what every day of motherhood is like. Exhausting, draining, filled with concern about the minute-to minute details of keeping everyone fed and safe and happy. Sure, it’s enjoyable and sometimes very rewarding, but there’s so much to think about every second it’s too much for us to take it all in all the time. But there are those shining moments.

  6. Amen.

    This weekend,{weather permitting; blizzard expected = whole town shuts down…} my fifth and youngest child will be baptized. I remember when my oldest got baptized and I thought to myself, “it will be so weird when all of my children are baptized.”
    It is.
    Ten years, gone in the blink of an eye.
    “The days are long but the years are short.”
    Enjoy them.
    Enjoy them.
    Enjoy them.

    Thanks, Jennie. I believe this with my whole heart, but its nice to read it from someone else, too. :)

  7. Nope. I disagree. I try to tell young mothers with little babies and toddlers that I remember how hard it was, but assure them that it was worth it. I look back on those years and shudder. I resented every person who told me that it went by fast and I’d miss those years. I figure they all just forgot what hell it was.
    When I had two little ones I knew that I would someday wish to go back and live it for a couple of days. But living it 24/7 is a completely different thing.
    Now with kids 12, 10, 6 and almost 2 I have to say that I life is busy and hard but I can enjoy and appreciate it.
    Being a mom is hard work and I appreciate the years I’ve put in because I feel like I’ve gotten better at my job. Without those hellish beginning years would I have come this far as a mother?
    It’s like telling middle school kids or high school kids that they will miss those years. Those years are hard because they are young and immature and the problems they encounter are big to them, because of their inexperience. It is not because they are stupid, it is simply that they need the experience in order to gain the wisdom.
    So sure, tell them to find ways to enjoy the time that you are in. But wishing ourselves back to it is rewriting history, or are we really just like the kind of people whose think best years of our lives were high school?

  8. re: jks,
    I totally get that the early years can be HARD. I also agree that they can sometimes be hell. Not in denial about that. But I don’t think Jennie’s point to this post was to want to go back in time.
    Even in the worst throes of the day with babies and todlers: find something good about that day. Even if it’s only your child’s smile.

    And go back to high school?
    (violent shudder.)
    ;)

  9. I have a friend who has told me more than once that she tries to find one “good” moment in each day, when she is not yelling, the kids are not fighting, and things are generally going well around the house. That moment may only last a few seconds (or less, depending) but she tries to find it, and be IN that moment. I personally struggle with the very idea of enjoying childhood for what it is. I don’t think my parents ever valued anything about our childhood when I was growing up, so it has been very difficult for me as a parent to enjoy things like spit up and crayon (or sharpie) on the walls. Even though I logically understand that what you are saying is absolutely true, I still struggle with it. That being said, I will openly admit to anyone that I really did enjoy breast feeding. It completely forced me to slow down and be completely in that moment every time (somehow). I still have to think on this for a while. Thank you for the post.

  10. True post. I think time accelerates once they are in 1st grade because we no longer see them every minute of the day. Even though I remind myself frequently that I love–LOVE–keeping my kids home with me before school, and the I love summer vacations, any vacations, the day-to-day is still hard, messy, and whiny.

    I like the comment above, about living in those good moments. Sometimes I mentally scroll through those moments as an antidote to stress. Or I scroll through my blog posts, re-reading the funny, the sweet, and the horrible-that-has-now become-funny.

  11. Melissa, I love your chocolate cake analogy!

    Here’s the crazy thing about raising children. It seems like it goes on forever and ever and ever in much the same way (chocolate cake every day for years and years), then suddenly BAM! it starts to change, and the changes come at you so fast and furious that you can hardly catch your breath–graduations, college, missions, marriages, grandchildren! Within a period of a just a few short years, your life and the lives of your children change DRASTICALLY. I’m right in the middle of these cyclone years, and my head is spinning! What I wouldn’t give for a “Slow Down” button right now.

  12. My youngest daughter turned 8 a week ago and suddenly it hit me that I no longer have any little kids. I’m so excited for her and the great adventures coming up in her life, but I’m a little sad, too. This morning when I went into the living room to dust I found her four “babies” set up along the couch where they’d been listening to her practice piano. My heart took a picture-it was pretty tender for me to reflect on how many more days I might find that kind of scene.

  13. JKS, I’m sorry you felt those early years were so awful. Frankly, it makes me sad. I do understand how hard it is. My own kids are pretty close in age and there were days when I wanted to lock myself in the bathroom door and never leave. It does sound like you have found joy in your current situation and that is great.

    For myself, I’ve worked hard to adopt the philosphy of enjoying each day for what it is. To be more flexible and spontaneous. I don’t always suceed, but it sure has helped me find a lot more joy in the everyday moments.

    I’ve also been taking more time to really just enjoy my children. So while I hate cleaning up disgusting diapers or potty-training, I love reading books with my daughter. I love cuddling my baby. I like telling jokes with my older kids. I like playing Wii with my sons.

    Focusing on the good things I do each day helps me appreciate this time.

  14. I can honestly say that this is one of the best things I’ve learned from blogging. It’s a beautiful and appreciated sentiment that I’ve seen repeated times, and it always makes me pause in these harried moments of young motherhood.

  15. jks, I’m with you and I appreciate you saying it out loud! I feel like a lot of mothers feel pressure to only talk about how idyllic and perfect mothering young children is. For me, hearing others admit that it’s difficult always helped me feel normal during those really hard days (instead of bad or broken).

    Now that my boys are all preschool age and older I am so much happier and I feel like a much better mother. I am sure some women prefer babyhood and toddlers, but I certainly did not and it helped me to hear from other mothers that a different phase (that I might actually enjoy) was coming.

  16. It was at the end of the day, curled up on the couch, that I was able to truly sit back and enjoy my young children. In the peace and quiet of the post-bedtime-ritual evening, I could look back over the day and laugh at those crazy moments we had all managed to get through. These were the times when I would plot and plan and recharge my batteries for the next day.

    I had one of those silly, sentimental signs on my wall (the ones that used to be so popular but are a little too saccharine for today’s tastes) that said, “Dishes done, papers read, children snuggled into bed, hours past the setting sun, I count my blessings one by one.” It was true, though, I did count them, AFTER the kids were down for the night. (I must admit that I still have the sign in my office. We’ve been through some stuff together, and I’m attached to it.) ;)

    Much as I miss those early days when I was the spoke of my children’s wheels and time together was a given, I also like the freedom I now have. That’s pretty golden, too.

  17. This is very hard for me right now. I have 4 children ages 2 to 12, so I understand the whole “enjoy them when they are young” thing. My boys are 9 and 12, so I get it. But, my girls are 2 and 4 and I am kinda tired and burnt out on my job. I’m sick of cleaning and cooking day after day. I’ve been doing it for over a decade and have 2 more to go! My husband changes jobs occasionally, but I don’t! I love mothering my kids but there’s always so much to get done! You’d think I’d have this down by now, and I used to but honestly having number 4 really pushed me over the edge. I often think of what I’d love to be doing with my boys but can’t because of the little girls. It makes me sad. I feel like I’ve missed out on so much with my boys, but oh well. I know I need to be patient. I just enjoy older children more I guess. When my oldest was a baby I used to wonder what he’d be like in 10 years. I enjoyed him as a 10 year old so much more than as a baby! I’d rather play Yahtzee with the boys than Candyland with the girls. But by the time the boys get home from school I’m so tired because I’ve been going all day with the little ones! Thanks for letting me vent. I appreciate JKS’s honesty. I’m not actually a very maternal person and never dreamed of being a mother growing up (long story) and I still struggle with the job description sometimes.

  18. In the movie The Shadowlands, one of C.S. Lewis’ students said “we read to know we are not alone.” That is what this blog does for me day after day after day. Thank you to all of the contributing authors and for all of the readers who post their own stories and wisdom. I am truly grateful, and every time I come here what I read makes me feel that I am not alone.

  19. I just saw “Red’s” comment and have to agree that the early years were not my favorite ones. Physically, they were the hardest, and they have a unique brand of strain all their own. Strange. I wouldn’t want to go back to those years…And yet, I miss them.

    The middle years were mostly delightful. But I wouldn’t want to have to do those over again, either.

    Emotionally and spiritually, the later years were hardest of all for me. I had two children that gave me a serious run for my money, and the fear involved was pretty hard to take at times. I definitely wouldn’t want to relive that part…but again…and very oddly, I miss it.

    The thing is, we all made it through, and I do count my blessings. Every day. Having said that, I must add that adult children are no picnic, either. They have complex, adult problems that can be very difficult to watch, and you are often relatively powerless to help them because they are on their own journeys and must learn to help themselves. Heartbreaking, at times. Of course, you can always LOVE them, and listening to them helps, too.

    Sorry to run on for so long, but this one really has me thinking…No matter what season you’re in, some major stress and strain comes with the job. But every phase of the parenting experience has been more than worth it, and I love and continue to love being the mother of my children more than anything else I’ve done.

    Aren’t mothers interesting? (And wonderful?)

    =)

  20. Thanks for this post–I keep needing to remind myself of this perspective, because for the last 4 years, I feel like I have been barely keeping my head above water, and lately I’ve felt a little like I’m starting to drown.

    According to some commenters, I should be approaching the light at the end of the tunnel (my kids are 9, 7, 3 and 17 months), but it seems like my youngest two are much more difficult personalities than my older two were as toddlers. Throw in some tough callings for both dh & me, and I feel like I don’t have the time or energy to do anything well.

    My biggest fear is that when I look back and all the time has flown by, I will realize all of the truly important things I should have made time for but didn’t. If anyone has some great advice on what I can let go of, please share!

  21. I remember feeling so liberated the summer my oldest (of four) turned ten and my youngest turned three. For the first time in *years* I felt like I could do simple things like take the kids to the park, sit next to the playground, and read a book (without having to be on constant alert to see that the youngest didn’t fall off the slide or the middle boy didn’t start a rumble). And I could vacuum without having a baby on my hip! And go to the bathroom and actually shut the door! Woo-hoo!

    Then, of course, we went and had another baby. :-)

    Anyway, my point is that it *is* hard. There is nothing like the constant vigilance required to care for and nurture babies and young children. And it feels like it will never end. But it does. And as much as it may grate on you to hear this over and over again, it ends all too quickly.

    Some days, the best you can do is just hold on. I love the suggestions, though, for trying to find and savor (and record!) those fleeting moments of pure joy.

    Hang in there, young mothers! You are the true heroes of society.

  22. As my 9 mos. pregnant self sat in total misery and discomfort at the pinewood derby last Saturday, I bemoaned to my husband that we would still be at a pinewood derby 8 years from now with the baby I’m currently carrying. The exhaustion I was already feeling was magnified.

    Then, in total horror, I realized that my oldest, my 12 year old over whom I already have guilt for not enjoying enough, will be (hopefully) ON HIS MISSSION at our last pinewood derby, and pure panic set in.

    Why, oh, why, oh, WHY are we SO slow to get it?

    Thanks for the post. Now I’m crying too. (But I’m pregnant, so, you know…)

  23. I really didn’t appreciate those young baby/toddler years at all. It was so grueling and difficult. It was all I could do to get my kids in bed without killing someone.

    But now that I’m done having children I look at the sweet babies of my friends and feel sad that I will never have one again. Nor will I have one of those cute toddlers who is barely learning to talk and saying funny things.

    I don’t really want to be in the thick of being a mother to very young children again because it is so very, very hard. I felt like a flop as a mother and wife when I was going through it. But there’s that nostalgia, and that perspective now that it’s in my past.

    But once my youngest turned three last summer, the clouds parted! We didn’t have to be home for naptime anymore. We could all use cups and eat regular food. And no diapers! It has been glorious!!! For the first time ever we got to go on outings–all of us. It has been lovely. So I have to say that I am LOVING having kids who can take care of themselves.

    Even more than that, I feel like I am a real person again. I am getting my groove back and I love it!

    Now I can see how important it is to just hang out with the kids. Play Candyland and read books and take walks and just mess around. I keep trying to imprint these days on my brain but it’s getting feeble and I can barely remember it at all the next morning.

    So I guess my advice is to slow down and be in the moment–whatever moment your life may be in. Be there physically and mentally too. At least then there won’t be so many regrets when the kids get older. (But trust me, I know it’s hard not to mentally check out when you play Heigh-ho Cherry-o. Man, I hate that game.)

  24. Sue, yes. Thank you. That’s exactly it:

    “No matter what season you’re in, some major stress and strain comes with the job. But every phase of the parenting experience has been more than worth it, and I love and continue to love being the mother of my children more than anything else I’ve done.”

  25. I don’t think you need to feel guilty if you don’t absolutely love the stage you are in right now. I LOVED high school and college was fun but not the same. My sister HATED high school but loved college. Neither of us would go back, we have moved on, but we have different memories and that is fine.

    My mother always tells me that every mother is better at different times. She was not great with the baby stage, but she loved the teenage years. My mother-in-law is the opposite.

    I think the only thing we can do is love our kids and look for little moments of joy. Sometimes that joy may be in remembering that ‘this too shall pass.’ We don’t have to love every moment of motherhood. We should just try to appreciate each stage as it comes.

  26. Thank you for the post. I loved reading all the comments. Thanks to all who shared their experiences. I just wanted to add my two bits about enjoying older kids too. I feel like much of the advice to mothers about enjoying the moments and the days is given to young mothers (who are particularly vulnerable to discouragement because of the constant needs of little ones). Anyway, my oldest son is 12, and I feel rather sad about him growing up, and I’ve been trying to take time to just be with him (play a card game while the younger ones are in bed and his other brother is at basketball practice or tell a joke or give him a massage). I think spending a little time each day with each child doing something, even if it’s as simple as walking to the mailbox with one of them, helps me feel much more connected to them and happier as a mother. Other comments have already alluded to this, but I think it’s so important to be kind to ourselves if we get bored, tired, resentful, or burned out as moms. Sometimes, it’s so easy to have the guilt set in when we’re not enjoying and loving every stage.

  27. I gave my eldest her first driving lesson yesterday. She asked, “Is this weird for you?”

    Uh, YES! Never thought that day would really come, but it did.

    When I had a pack of little kids I usually wanted to strangle the sweet older ladies who told me how lucky I was. And every day seemed to last forever. I used to actually be kinda glad when one of my kids was sick and needed a trip to the doctor and then to the pharmacy because it ate up a few hours and gave us something structured to do.

    Of course, blogging didn’t exist back then…

  28. We were in the pizza parlor tonight and a lady was there by herself with two kids under 4 and a new baby in a carseat. The baby was screaming, I mean screaming, as the family was finishing dinner and putting on coats. As she walked by our booth she said “sorry” to us. I just looked at her with what I hope was an understanding, compassionate smile as I’m sitting there with my 4 perfectly calm, non-screaming, non-toddler children, and I said to her, “Hey. We’ve all been there.” I should have added, “You’ll be in my place soon enough. Sistah power” and done the secret knuckle-bump. Hey, young mom – wherever you are: knuckle-bump. You deserved that night out.

  29. I remember when my youngest turned 4 and my oldest was 12 realizing this was the simplest and best part of the journey. we spent our days exploring the mountains and the beach, everyone could participate and I could lounge by the pool. No one could drive, date, and thankfully no one has had serious illnesses. I am soo glad that I relished inthat time, because now I have 4 teenagers!

    Exhausted doesn’t begin to describe how hard it is to stay optimistic and hopeful during these years, and mine aren’t into serious trouble, that I’m aware of.

    I loved having those babies, but I am really loving becoming the supporting cast instead of the lead!

    hang in there ladies, and love them fiercely! Even those days when you have to fake it!

  30. I have little bitty ones right now. I love them and adore spending time with them, but I’m also looking forward to the years when we can go on outings that are more involved than toddler storytime at the library. I hope I enjoy being with my kids even more as they get older.

    I visit taught a wonderful grandmotherly woman in her 70s who had raised 14 children. I was in awe of her. She talked constantly about the blessings of motherhood. I started to notice that she only ever talked about how wonderful it was to be pregnant, give birth, and nurse a baby. She never said a word about spending time with her older children. I’m sure she did, but all her memories and nostalgia were about her children’s babyhood. While I admire her, I don’t want to think that my favorite stage of motherhood was pregnancy and babies. After all, my children won’t remember those toddler years. I want to cherish the tween years, and teen years and adult years too.

  31. I love reading everyone’s comments. So many people have said so many wise things. I especially think Sue #20 is a very wise mother. Thank you.
    Some of your comments got me nostalgic for the time before #4 when I used to take the kids for walks in the woods and other fun outings.
    With my kids being 12-almost 2, I’m in so many stages right now, and have been in so many stages, that a part of my identifies with practically everyone who has commented (and even the OP despite my disagreeing in my earlier comment),
    It is a hard balance to enjoy any stage since all have its difficulties. Sometimes we are affected by other things in our life. Is our marriage good or stressed? Is our health good? Do we have financial worries? Is our husband supportive? These other things can make a stage of motherhood harder or easier.
    Motherhood is a challenging adventure. I just admire all women who are attempting it.

  32. The thing that hurts about this post is that I think you often can’t learn the lesson except by experience. But by then, the littleness is already going or gone.

    But maybe that is why God gives us grandchildren. :)

    Love your post, Jennie. Love it.

  33. You’re right. This really is the hardest time ever–being a mom of very small children. It is one grueling, monotonous, thankless day after the next. And I often feel like I am not savoring these days like I should be. But I’ve tried to make a point lately to at least once a day spend some time doing something totally boring(for me) and wonderful (for them) with my kids. So often I have to say “not now, I’m busy” because I’m on the phone trying to deal with an incorrect bill, or I’m empyting the trash so I can get it in the can before the trash man comes, or I’m making dinner. I can’t always stop what I’m doing to play with the kids because I run a whole household on top of raising the kids. But I try, really hard, at least once a day when they say, “Mommy, come look at this” to just stop what I’m doing, get up, and go look. And then play with them for a while.

    I just hope that will be enough for them to feel loved and cherished and for me to feel like I was a good mom and took time for them. ‘Cause I don’t really know how to do more than that and keep my sanity.

  34. My oldest is now 20 and a junior at BYU; I have a son who is a senior in high school and who will be leaving on a mission next winter; I have another son who is 14 and will be starting high school next fall; and my “baby” just got her first bra and will be graduating from primary this year. And, like Sharlee said, it’s starting to go so fast it makes my head spin. I feel like I should be constantly singing “Sunrise, Sunset,” because that’s how I’ve been feeling—nostalgic, sad, unable to believe my children are growing up so quickly. You never realize how fast it goes by until it’s over. Savor those little moments of young motherhood—I know you’ve all heard it again and again, but I wish I’d savored them more.

    Great post, Jennie!

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