Schrödinger’s Parent, or when you can’t “cherish every moment”

One of the many clichés you hear as a parent of littles from older parents is something to the effect of: “Cherish every moment—they grow up so fast.”

It’s something I’m also tempted to say to newer parents because kids do indeed grow up fast, and when you look at photos from when they were younger it’s easy to get wistful for those times.

But it’s also true that not every moment can or should be cherished, not when it’s full of screaming or sleep deprivation or pacifiers that need to be cleaned yet again. Sometimes you pine for that seemingly mythical future when the kids are older and life is easier and you can do things without a diaper bag or tantrum.

There are a few names you could call this phenomenon of living in the moment while longing for another:

  • Cognitive dissonance
  • “Two things are true” per the Good Inside philosophy of Dr. Becky Kennedy
  • For the nerds, a parental spin on Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment
  • What I’d call “improv parenting” – i.e. taking a “yes, and” approach

Whatever you want to call it, the idea of two conflicting states existing at the same time strongly resonates for me. It’s OK to acknowledge and accept whatever phase you’re currently in—newborn, toddler, teen, single or multiple kids, etc.—while also wishing you were in another. “Yes, I’m here right now. And I will be over there sooner than I realize.”

This perspective doesn’t erase or invalidate the (many) frustrations embedded in child-rearing. It merely helps you see and appreciate the good stuff in each phase, even when you’re deep in the trenches. It’s a reminder that life is fleeting, that each phase has its good and bad, fun and hard, and none of it lasts.