By now I’m sure you have seen the quote about only having “18 delicious Summers” with your children? Attributed to Jessica Scott, it says:
“You only get 18 delicious summers with your kids.
This is one of your 18.
If that’s not perspective, I don’t know what is.”
When I first read it, the perspective hit me right in the chest, like a lead weight in my heart. It was the same feeling I have whenever I realise I have just experienced something with my children for the last time.
Last time I need to buy nappies: check.
Last time I need to move the booster seat in the car: check.
Last time he will reach for my hand when crossing the road: check.
Last time I will drop him off at primary school: check.
But as the holidays have marched on, I saw the quote pop up in my Facebook feed a second time, and a third. Suddenly I realised it wasn’t resonating with me anymore. Rather than giving me perspective, it was just giving me anxiety. The lead weight on my chest started to spread, until it felt like it was hanging around my neck.
By the fifth or sixth time someone shared the quote, it just made me pissed off.
Don’t get me wrong: I understand the sentiment, I truly do.
And if it encourages parents to look up from their phones and be present in the moment with their kids, to really enjoy the time they have together, then I am behind it, 100%.
But on the flip side, it feels like a lot of pressure, with a side serving of guilt. I feel like I carry enough mum guilt around with me every day, thank you very much.
In the same way the women smile at you in the supermarket and entreat you to “savour these moments, they grow so fast”, while watching you wrangle a toddler climbing out of the stroller to reach the checkout chocolates with one arm, and simultaneously comforting a screaming, hungry, overtired baby in the other, Jessica’s dose of “perspective” is not actually helpful.
Do her words make me want to really savour every moment of the 18 “delicious” summers I get?
But not as much as it makes me want to punch Jessica in the face.
I would love to invite Jessica to Australia to test the validity of her words. Obviously in America the children do turn 18 and move away for college, whereas given the state of the housing market here in Australia, those 18 summers are likely to number well into the twenties. And I am confident Jessica would not use “delicious” as an adjective to describe an Adelaide Summer of consecutive 40+ degree days.
Still, there have been many moments these holidays when I have looked at my kids and wanted to capture the moment forever, my heart full to bursting with love and gratitude that I get to spend such precious time with them. There have been just as many other moments when I have wondered whom at school I can bribe to take them back earlier.
Often these moments occur in the same hour.
So you see, Jessica’s words are not helpful.
They are not helpful to me as I flip flop between hugging my kids and not wanting to let them go, to looking up how much I could sell them for on Ebay.
They are not helpful to working mums who have to schedule the school holidays with military precision, knowing it is a physical impossibility to spend every day of the holidays with their children. It only makes them feel “less than” and heaps on another dose of mum guilt.
Her words are most certainly not helpful to the mum I read about today, whose 5 year old son filled up his Nerf water gun with his own urine, and proceeded to spray his entire bedroom with it.
As the mother of boys, let me tell you this made me snort laugh in solidarity. But I was not surprised. The only thing that surprised me was that neither of my boys have ever thought to do it.
Now, if THAT’S not perspective, I don’t know what is.