You Don’t Get This Back

I am always first on the line to smack heads when someone tries to give me “advice” on how to parent my child. It’s funny, but the people who pass this advice around the most, are usually people who are not parents themselves. Oh, and you never actually ask for it — it’s foisted on you like that free sample of shaving cream some enthusiastic in-store promoter just needs to give you.

Usually though, when I am seeking advice or would like some insight on something, I head on over to my child’s grandparents for their take on it. I have memories of asking my mom for advice, but that stopped about a year before she died. Not being able to ask her or my dad is something that stings so much. But, I have a network of incredible extended family who are there, and who are always willing to jump when I ask. For that, I am ever-grateful.

But there is one addendum to this rule of mine, and it’s this:

The most powerful thing anyone ever said to me about parenting was not spoken by a parent.

It was, very simply:

“You don’t get this back”.

Now, that seems like a stupid statement to you right now, but I’ll explain:

I can work, and work, and work. Work will always happen. I can get work back. I can clean, clean and clean. Things will get dirty again, and then I’ll get to clean again. I can get cleaning back.

But the moment where my daughter read her first word will never happen again. The second where she went from crawling to walking, will never happen again. The sunny morning where I watched her win all her races in sports day? That day will not come back.

That Tuesday evening where, as I walked from the lounge to the kitchen, turning away from my daughter and she finally said the word I’d been waiting a year to hear? That was a limited edition, one time only, will never happen again moment. That word was…


So you can tell me this is urgent, you can foist your deliverables upon me, and you can yell about how badly you need me. But those things are notlimited edition, one time only, moments. You’ll need me again, for something, or something new will arrive that’ll be just as important. What is urgent today will not matter in a year. I will get that back.

For me, right now, as I watch her, head buried into homework. Or I listen to her story about how Molly fought with Margaret and now they’re friends, but there was a bit of a situation over by the benches…

I know — I don’t get this back.

Also published here.