Truth be told, I actually do cherish some of the moments I have with my kids. But for counter-cultural reasons, I will never ever share that fact with the lady who flashes worshipful, closed mouth smiles at my kids before dropping ye olde bomb about appreciating every moment. Like all clichés, there’s a kernel of truth that’s gone all mushy and gross from overuse.
So I push back and remind her of a handful of things that she never ever cherished for a single moment of her own time with small kids. “Yeah, I hear these little kid years do go by fast. But today I’d like them to go faster, since both of them just screamed the whole way here when a banana broke in half, and I’m running on 5 hours of interrupted sleep.” Then I smile, and wait for her fog of nostalgia to drift away so I can move on with the shopping, or the reminder to my three-year-old son that my nipples are private, or the slow-as-molasses walk home.
Being told by a stranger to cherish everything should come as no surprise, since telling women, and in particular mothers, what to do is America’s other pastime. But in this case, instead of being criticized for the stuff we’re doing – helicoptering too much or not enough or not forcing our kid to share the plastic helicopter – it’s our feelings that are being scrutinized.
If she were someone you knew, Cherish would be that friend from high school who was great in small doses. But an afternoon out together? Something to avoid, unless you like having perfectly good moments smothered by comments like “We’re having such a wonderful time right now, aren’t we?!?!”
I do understand the motivation behind these uninvited reminders to appreciate this or that – we get so hypnotized by the monotony of our days that beauty and magic can fly right by unnoticed. But you know what’s even better than having your nose pushed into appreciation like a bewildered puppy? Choosing to cherish something all by yourself.
As we all know from personal experience, Cherish is at her best when she’s nimble and quick. A bookmark, a snapshot, a passing pool of light to soak in. You get to notice beauty on the fly, and then let it scramble off like the wild animal that it is. You get to feel the sweetness, but you’re not obligated to make a whole big damn deal about it.
I’m gonna keep right on defending myself against sappy directives from folks who have long since forgotten the relentless demands of motherhood. But I’ll keep Cherish around as a reminder of the nature of all things. Whether it’s the soft ‘R’ of a little boy’s “I want to scaa-oouuwwh you” as he lurches at you in his best zombie impression, or the soft hang of your breasts that are finally done feeding babies. Inevitably, the boy will learn to “ScaRe you” and the breasts will yield to the gravity of years.