The Parenting Advice I Hate to Give

05/13/2015 10:39 am ET | Updated May 13, 2016
Jenny Witte

Even before you give birth, advice is doled out to you freely, whether you are receptive to it or not. Everything from how to feed your baby, how to swaddle it or put a diaper on it or look at it or hold it, is heaped on you left and right, along with tips and tricks and product recommendations. Most of it is good-natured. Some is not.

Once the baby is actually born, the advice train just keeps on rolling and there is NO stopping it. Everyone from in-laws to strangers will lecture you on sippy cups and potty-training and preschools and playdates, how they learn and where to go to school and what sports to do. How to discipline and what to feed them and when they should go to bed. How to do chores or allowance or flashcards or sleepovers or school breaks. I even give out my fair share of advice right here on this blog.

But there is one piece of "advice" I have heard countless times, and one that I hate to give, and that is, "Don't take it all for granted, it all goes by too fast."

You've heard this one, right? You are shaking your head right now, yes, we have all heard this little golden nugget of parental advice. Slow down, cherish those memories, take a look around once in a while. Don't miss it. Savor those little moments. Because just like THAT, it will be over.

And I'm here to tell you that it's true.

The other day, I posted a photo of my 3-year-old's sweet little dandelion bouquet that he had brought in for me from the front yard (yes, we have a TON of dandelions right now). He had brought it upstairs to my bedroom and handed them to me, and I left them there, on the bed. And I forgot about them.

We had one of those mornings where I had deadlines to meet and Jack wanted to go outside at the same moment that I needed to put the baby down and the dog ran over to the next door neighbor's house and I still hadn't showered. It wasn't an ideal morning of motherhood, and to be honest with you, I just wanted to get through it. I wanted to just push the fast-forward button and get to when I could have a little bit of a break. I didn't want to sit down and build a train track, I couldn't take the time out to just hold the baby as she was fussy, I had work to do! There were dishes in the sink and lacrosse uniforms that needed to be washed and dried before that afternoon! Stuff to do. Like there always is. Like there always will be.

It wasn't until I finally got the 3-year-old down for a nap and the baby drifted off to sleep in her Pack n Play that I was back upstairs, about to upend a basket of laundry onto the bed to sort it all out and put it all away, and just before I turned the basket upside down I noticed the two, now wilted, little yellow flowers on my bed. Even though he had just picked them that morning, they were already droopy, getting a little brown around the edges, laying there, limp and forgotten.

But looking at them, I remembered what his face looked like presenting them to me that morning, how proud he was, how pure the love and happiness can be coming from a three year old. He had hidden them behind his back until the last minute, until the big "Ta da! These are for you...", and then he quickly scampered away on still chubby not a baby anymore but not a big boy yet legs.

And man oh man, heartstrings. Tugged. Ripped out is more like it.

Because I tried to remember what it was like when my oldest, now 8, would bring me flowers. And I could remember, but holy cow, it seems like forever ago. Now he is playing grown-up kid sports and having sleepovers and putting gel in his hair (I know). He wants his own phone (no way) and wants to be independent and play video games and I can't believe how tall he is already. But it was literally just yesterday that he made me a mom for the first time, wasn't it? Wasn't he just laying dandelions on my bed on another regular weekday morning just like this one?

I have never been good at being "mindful," at stopping to "live in the moment." Especially since I started my own business, I am "Type A" to a fault, and I am always working on the next thing, looking at the next goal, meeting a deadline or planning a new project. As a mom of four, I wear the Cruise Director hat pretty much constantly, and life often feels like I'm ushering them from one practice field to the next with dinners in between when we make the time. So I really do hate this advice I'm giving to you, because I know how hard it can be. When you're in the mix, in the deep trenches of parenting, sometimes you don't WANT to stop and savor moments. Sometimes you just want to, or need to, keep moving forward.

But today, I am telling you to just slow down once in awhile and take stock. Take stock of little toes and little ears, haircuts that you might not remember, the way their little voices sound (even when demanding chocolate milk at 2:30 a.m.), the sheer adorableness of teeny tiny pairs of underwear (even if you have to wash and put away 12 pairs of them). Let the other stuff slide sometimes. Laundry will never go away, projects can sometimes wait, time can be found. You just have to carve it out. Shift things around. Open your eyes.

That's the one big catch of being a mom, the thing that no one wants to tell you, the truly heartbreaking part. It does go by too fast, so fast it will take your breath away. And once they are grown up and gone, they are gone. Those little laughs and funny ways they say words, the plump little toddler in your lap, the baby asleep in your arms, it is so fleeting it's almost hard to truly remember. But looking back on it, you will know that those moments, even if you can't grasp them as tightly as you want, you will know that those were moments well lived, when you were with those children. Those little people that belonged to you, those people that will always be yours.

So forget the roses; stop and smell the dandelions once in a while.