Are These the Good Old Days?

My kid when she was a baby, in Port Townsend, hugging the beach

I’m driving with my kid to a 3rd birthday party yesterday, when Macklemore and Kesha’s song Good Old Days comes on the radio. I start crying — bawling — as I sing along to the chorus, lost in thoughts about my life before becoming a parent.

Afterwards I turn off the radio and ask my 4-year-old:

“Did you like that song?”

“Yeah!” she says, “What’s it about?”

I cry harder as I explain, that we’re always changing, and people — especially grown-ups — have a hard time living in the present, being happy about where we are. So much looking forward, looking back. Saying some other time was the best, when we were younger. That it’s hard to see the good that’s right in front of us.

As I talk, I’m wondering to myself if this is a Good Old Day right now. We’re headed to a party. To see our friends in the sunshine, to eat pizza and cupcakes. A total Good Old Day, right?

So why am I crying?

Parenting is so hard.

I’m glad she doesn’t ask me what the best part of my life is. I don’t even know. I don’t hide from her that I have hard times, that we all do. But really, when was the happiest time of my life?

Would I go back to her age? Nope.

Teenage? Hell no.

20s? I mean, there were some epic moments, but so much pain too.

I start thinking about old white Conservatives romanticizing some time in the past, imagining the bullshit idea of “simpler times.”

I have no illusions about any simpler, happier times in my life. I’ve never been one to talk about glory days.

Depression and anxiety snuck in early. There’ve always been good times, but always bad as well.

My kid and I both cry on the daily. Usually I’m able to stay strong while she cries, but afterward I need to let it out too, sometimes alone in the bathroom, sometimes in front of her, in front of everyone.

But then today we met up with another family for a playdate at the beach.

I’m fighting a cold, and my kid was fussing about how she couldn’t put her socks on by herself (she can), and I feel like my husband and I haven’t had so much as an uninterrupted conversation in a week.

But we all headed to the beach, and the sun came out, gloriously. And the kids waded in the icy water, with their superhuman bravery.

They asked if they could get naked.

Four wet, sandy naked preschoolers, giggling and making sand angels, hilariously coated in sand.

And I found myself really, really happy. I thought,

Right now, I am right here, and it is good. I’m not even the one naked and rolling around (it does sound nice though), but just seeing that joy, I feel joy in my whole body.

Parenting is an opportunity to cultivate moments like this, joyful moments. So often I feel a struggle between my own happiness and my child’s, but then I have these moments where they intersect so beautifully.

Will this be the happiest time of her life? Is it the happiest time of mine?

I’m not sure. And that’s okay. But I’m not going to fast-forward through all of it, trying to get to some other point. I’m here right now. Well, right now, she’s napping (yes!), and I’m getting these thoughts down. And I’m happy to be a mom.

I don’t know if I’m Happy, in an overarching, capital letter sense, but I do believe I’m much happier than if I wasn’t a mom. And I don’t want to look back. I want to be present, to really feel the sunshine and the snuggles and even the moments like this, where I have the space to take a breath, to write, to share.