This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

If you’re a caregiver to a young child I’m sure you’ve heard this many, many times already: “Oh, I wish my kids were still little…make sure to cherish every moment!” It’s very well-intentioned and the implication is that children grow up before you know it, but sometimes it is really hard to enjoy certain moments.  Picking up poop off the floor, stepping on toys strewn about everywhere, or dealing with a major meltdown about a $1 toy that just broke are not moments that many of us would like to cherish. So can I offer a little twist on this familiar refrain? “Make sure to cherish the beautiful moments that arise out of the chaos.”

It’s impossible to appreciate or even stop and acknowledge every moment and the truth is there are many moments that we would really like to forget.  However, I’ve noticed that some of my absolute favorite moments with my children happen when I’m least expecting it, and when I just allow myself to simply enjoy being present with them.  I have two wonderful recent examples. The first came in the middle of the night…a night where I was in my own head and having trouble sleeping and getting comfortable. My son had just crawled up into our bed as he normally does.  As if he could sense my emotions he put his arm behind my head and cuddled me as if to say “It’s Ok Dad”. This was very special to me, as he usually cuddles with his Mom when he comes to our bed; he just seemed to know that I needed that loving reassurance and extra cuddles that night.  The second moment came as I was putting my daughter to sleep and leaving her room. I had laid her down in her crib and said “I love you”. She looked right back at me and said “I love you too Daddy” in the incredibly sweet and adorable way that only a one and a half year-old can…it was the first time she had said it in a full sentence like that, and it most definitely drew a tear or two from my eyes.

These two moments weren’t big grand gestures or part of any planned experience that we had set up.  They just happened naturally and I was luckily in a space where I was present and able to fully enjoy them.  So I urge you not to spend all your energy trying to enjoy every single moment of life with your children, but rather be ready to fully cherish and remember the instances that arise when you least expect them.

This is fatherhood…