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Why I’m Glad I Never Counted

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As a parent, I’ve made so many mistakes that it’s difficult to keep track. I over-promised and under-delivered, sent school forms in late and never, ever did the school trip thing, let alone cook organic meals, assemble two dozen spiders out of oreos and pretzels or organize playgroups like the moms profiled in Good Enough Is the New Perfect (no wonder they’re so stressed out – I never even realized quite how imperfect I was until I read that book). Heck, if my daughters were my clients, they’d have fired me long ago.

But one thing that I did right — and never realized til now — is that I never counted. I never counted the number of diapers I changed in a day or how many books we read together at bedtime or how many videos I let my daughters watch during long car trips or long conference calls. I never counted how many nights I stumbled groggily into their room to nurse them at night, or how many minutes I spent rocking them before they fell asleep or how many more years until I was no longer hostage to a 4 pm bus stop pick up. I never counted the time towards when I’d have more because I knew that eventually, instead of counting up, I’d be counting down.  Counting down towards the day where my daughters no longer want to share with me everything that they did in school, or where their friends’ opinion matters more than mine or where their problems exceed my capacity to help solve them. Or where they leave home first for college and then for good.

Each last week in August flies by as I’m caught up in the flurry of traditions that accompany my daughters’ first day of school. The school-supply shopping. The new outfit and haircut. The first-day-of-school photo (depicted here) that they still begrudgingly indulge me, before they hop on the bike (older) or bus (younger), eager to get to school for the new year and the fresh start that lays bright and shiny before them.  And each year, after they’re gone, though I’m anxious to get to my desk and resume work uninterrupted, I always linger a little longer — watching first, the nervous pre-schooler or the giddy kindergartner and now, the seventh grader on the yellow school bus and the sophomore on the bicycle race away.  Because one of these days they won’t be coming back.  I just never counted on it being so soon.

  • As one getting ready to send my oldest off to high school for the first time, I can relate to “time flies”

  • Thank you for this post. As a working mom of a six-month old, I am too tired to count. But thanks for reminding me why.

  • Liz

    Nice post.  I’m not a mom (yet) but that book looks interesting.  Thought I should point out that the link should be, not, which leads to some dental lab.

  • I like how you frame it as not counting; not keeping track of the moments going by. Truly enjoying each moment as a parent is a gift from our children. Mine are 3 and 15 mos. and I can’t imagine them taking the bus to school, or reading me the bedtime story, or going on a first date, or all of those moments I’ll treasure in the future.
    I’m not a perfect mom, and I spend more time in front of a computer than I’d like to. But it’s not about time management, about measuring and calculating and scheduling, it’s about the love.
    Thanks for the reminder not to count the minutes, and be present for each one.

  • Celeste Boyd

    Lovely post, even for non-moms! I think it applies to many aspects of life (read: friendships & marriages) in addition to children. 🙂

  • Celeste Boyd

    Lovely post, even for non-moms! I think it applies to many aspects of life (read: friendships & marriages) in addition to children. 🙂

  • Taxwork

    Enjoyed your  post.

  • Roy

    We need more Dads commenting. I just sent my youngest off to college where I attended law school (UW-Madison) many many moons ago. It was very bitter sweet. I will certainly miss her very much, but to say that I’m one proud dad would be an understatement. They do grow up; but that’s what they’re supposed to do, right?

  • Carolyn Elefant

    Yes they are supposed to grow up. But that doesn’t mean I can’t shed a few tears in the process!

  • Carolyn Elefant

    In a few years, you won’t even remember how tired you are now.

  • shg

    As my last baby enters his senior year of high school, I’ve started to count. It’s all part of the plan, having spent the last 17 years raising him so that one day he will walk away and not look back.  But I’ll keep staring in his direction just in case he does.

    When my children were young, there was no need to count.  Everything was in front of us.  Now, it’s an eye blink away.  And I count every second.

  • Danielle

    I feel you ma’am. I’m out serving documents 10 hours a day. By the time I get home, all I want to do is pass out. But my 2 year old kicks it into 3rd gear and could care less about how my day went. I’ve got to push through those tough times and give her all I’ve got (left!).

  • As I send my 7 yo off to second grade I remember two things distinctly: the morning I saw him looking at the Victoria Secret catalog with an embarrassed smile and that very same evening needing to go to bed with an army of stuffed animals. This visual reality of his growing up and the transition is etched in my mind.  As is the day I went to make him breakfast (as I have every morning) and he said, ‘no thanks.  I already got a bowl of cereal’. You don’t count. You just capture a moment that tells the story of the days going by. As the saying goes – the days go by slowly. The years fly by.

  • Siouxsielaw

    This totally got me.  I’m a  mess.   “The days drag on but the years fly by.”  I heard that on the radio once.  Too true. 

  • Cbondon

    Carolyn, My children are 2 and 3 1/2 and I love the fact that instead of being one of those lawyers who writes about being a slave to the law (which I always thought I would be), you write about treasuring the time with your girls.

    Celeste Bondon
    Galloway Law & Media, PLLC

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