As I write this post, hundreds of thousands of people have read Glennon Melton’s post “Don’t Carpe Diem,” and a good number of them have shared, liked or otherwise publicized that post. For good reason. Ms. Melton’s post was well written and poignant and, most importantly, it resonated with a decent-sized chunk of the population. For those who haven’t read the post and aren’t interested in doing so now, the point was simply that parents are often made to feel as if they are doing something wrong if they don’t enjoy every moment of parenthood. When I talk about parenting, I almost always find myself saying, “We’re loving every minute of it!” I then immediately launch into a clarifying monologue about how we’re not actually loving every minute of it. At the moment our kids are 2.5 and nearly 5. It would be tempting to describe the 2.5 year old’s mood swings as borderline psychotic, but I fear that would be offensive to schizophrenics and people with bipolar disorder. And the five year old? Well, let’s just say she’s independent and strong-willed — attributes I like to think are indicative of her exceptional intelligence. So, when Ms. Melton voiced the thought that no parent actually enjoys every moment, parents of young children across the globe raised a collective, “AMEN!”
However, I really wish she had found another name for her post. (Then again, every time I see someone reaching MuchAdo because they’ve searched for “she put what up where” — which happens WAY more frequently than you might imagine — I question my own naming prowess.) No doubt many of those thousands and thousands of readers will forget the underlying premise of her post — the need to stop and enjoy the truly great moments that come with parenthood and lose the guilt over the feelings of annoyance, or irritability, or outright rage that come with the many less-than-great moments — and simply walk away with the notion that not seizing the day really resonated with them.
The phrase that Horace coined has nothing to do with loving every moment in life, but rather embracing life — recognizing and enjoying the abundant wonderful moments and not mortgaging the present in hope of the future. Life is complicated. Most of us work hard, and are always working toward something. It is far too easy to focus on those goals and lose the moment. We focus on careers in order to create a better future for our children, but often at the expense of the moments we could be enjoying now. We become hyper-focused on parenting — making sure our children know right from wrong, that they shouldn’t speak to strangers, that they should speak to strangers when Mommy and Daddy tell them to, that cursing is something Daddy shouldn’t have done but did anyway, etc. — often sacrificing the bonding moments for the teaching moments. Of course, the teaching moments are important, and any parent who abandons the teaching moments whenever a bonding moment is to be had will soon regret that choice.
But each of us should strive to recognize and internalize each of life’s many golden moments and bask in that pretty light. This year will mark the 27th anniversary of my mother’s death and the 38th anniversary of my father’s. Being faced at an early age with the impermanence of life may have been the greatest gift my parents ever gave me. I am acutely aware — often to my detriment — that life is a series of peaks and valleys. When I find myself on the mountaintop, I try with every ounce of resolve I am able to muster to enjoy the view because I know it won’t last forever. I often fail. I often overcorrect — wondering why my time on the mountaintop has lasted as long as it has and fretting over when I will be plunged into the valley again. But rarely a day passes when I don’t thank God for the many blessings I have been given.
That, to me, is the essence of carpe diem. Don’t pretend to enjoy every moment, but make sure you enjoy all the moments that matter. Oh, and stop cursing in front of your children.