Don't Tell Me What to Cherish - Every Parenting Journey is Different

Cheney Meaghan Giordano

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“Oh, he’s just precious. You need to cherish these times while they last.”

That’s what I heard an old woman say to a struggling young mother yesterday when I went to bring my daughter to pick up her new pair of eyeglasses.

There was a woman who was also there with her daughter, who sat at the desk next to us and was getting fitted for new glasses, but the young mother also was dealing with a crying toddler, a little boy flailing around on the floor and crying because he didn’t want anything to do with anything.

He was done.

As cute as I noted he was, with blond hair and little dimples, those irresistible chunky toddler legs sticking out the bottom of his shorts — he was still, at the moment, just a screaming hellion on the floor.

And there was this old woman talking about cherishing it.

I saw the young mother roll her eyes.

We made eye contact for a minute and I gave her my best look of sympathy and camaraderie, and I rolled my eyes, too.

Clearly, it had been a few decades since the old woman had to deal with a screaming toddler on her own in public.

But what really got to me was her comment — cherish these times while they last.

Well, what if we don’t cherish these times, lady?

What if these times are total hell and we can’t wait to get out of them?

What if these times of tantrums and diapers and inability to reason have driven this young mother to the brink of her sanity?

What if she just can’t wait for her son to grow up and out of these behaviors?

And what if he never will?

My daughter is twelve and three quarters going on eight.

Perpetually.

She is autistic but also Intellectually Disabled, and for all the work we’ve done, therapy we’ve been to, interventions we have tried, she just doesn’t seem to be growing up.

We have plateaued at this juncture that feels impossible to overcome — that maybe, in her heart and mind, my daughter will behave and live with the mentality of an eight-year-old forever.

Now, I know that some camps don’t think it’s right to assign a mental age to people with disabilities, because plateaus can be overcome and things could eventually change, she might eventually, miraculously mature — but I stopped holding out any hope for that and I’ve started to live with the fact that she might not.

It’s easier for me to live this way, to let go and let her be.

But I can’t abide strangers telling me what I — or other people — should cherish, when they have no idea what they’re talking about.

What if that little boy had been autistic or disabled, too?

What if this wasn’t just a case of a cute little boy melting down for a few minutes, but if this was something that happened every time the boy was taken out in public, maybe because he’s sensory overloaded, maybe because he doesn’t understand what is going on, or maybe because he is scared.

For some parents, all we want is for our children to grow up.

For some of us we tread carefully through the years, celebrating every late milestone, hoping that the next one will be reached soon and with little trouble.

We don’t all cherish the behaviors of our little kids, not when we are afraid our kids will always be little.

We humans need to watch our mouths around each other.

I know that we are in a hyped up world of Trump America where it seems people feel like they can say whatever to whomever they want and forget about political correctness, but what has happened to simply thinking before we speak?

To the mother with the screaming child, I think the only appropriate thing to say would have been:

“Can I help you?”

But instead she got unsolicited comments and stares.

Cherish these times

When it could have been the worst day of that young mother’s life. When she could have just been dealt the hardest news a parent might have to hear.

When, clearly, she was struggling.

Cherish these times…

I will never tell you to cherish any particular time in your parenting journey. I have no idea what you’re going through. I will never know whether you are aching for your perfect child to stay little or yearning for your troubled child to grow up.

What’s more is, I will never speak up and offer unsolicited comments or advice to young mothers with screaming children.

This isn’t the time to cherish anything.

This is the time to help each other, to lift one another up and come together in solidarity with each other.

Cherish this:

“Can I help you?”

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I write about parenting, family, relationships, education, disability, mental health, and a whole lot about writing.

Salem, CT
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