Friday, January 20, 2012

Carpe Diem, Mom! A response to Glennon Melton's post, "Don't Carpe Diem"

Perhaps you've seen the blog post that has been circulating around Facebook and email lists, being hailed as truth and wisdom. This one, suggesting old ladies in grocery stores, let alone ANYONE, shouldn't "Carpe Diem" moms.

After reading the post, I walked away from it more disturbed than encouraged. The writer seems to be misinterpreting the intentions of older mamas and inaccurately defined the term "Carpe Diem".

You see, when an older mom takes the time to remind me to cherish my children's growing up years, I hear them. I even get a little misty-eyed. Do I feel a twinge of guilt? Sure, but that's not the old ladies' fault nor is that their intention. That guilt comes from knowing better but not doing better. Sometimes my temper gets the better of me but Carpe Diem to me. That is the perfect time to take up this Latin advice! Because in the big scheme of things, what I'm mad about makes no difference. What perturbs, annoys me or downright drains me in my role as parent, is not going to make one difference 10, 20 years from now. However, how I RESPOND to them in those frustrating moments, makes a lifetime difference for them. THAT is what they remember. When an older mom takes the time to speak these wise words to me, it's not in an effort to tell me I'm doing it wrong, to heap hot coals of guilt on my head, or to criticize my parenting (or lack thereof) in the moment. This much is obvious in their nostalgic look that sweeps across their eyes. In watching my children, good or bad behavior, they are transported back to the years when their children were tender; when their children were under the same roof and a part of their daily life.

The definition of Carpe Diem is not to be happy,ecstatic and bubbly all the time, as the author mislead her readership. That's not what that famous Latin term is about at all. According to Merriam-Webster, it means "the enjoyment of the pleasures of the moment without concern for the future". In Latin, it means, quite literally, "pluck the day" or "Seize the day", as Robin Williams taught a whole generation of youth. Not be crazy happy every moment, of every day as she would claim. Hardly. It is the active seeking, the purposeful choosing to take pleasure in the moment WITHOUT being burdened with future plans. It is embracing the glimmers of joy, no matter how small or spaced out, in the moments. To Carpe Diem is a choice. It is a mind-set. It is a choosing to look for and embrace the moments of joy. It is also the reminder to not get so ahead of yourself with the future that you can't BE in the present moment and glean enjoyment from it.

Little old ladies aren't lining up to beat young mamas over the head by the ever so brief flashback of their child's younger years. Do they have a clear memory of the harried, HARD days of motherhood? You betcha they do! However, this author seems to think their memory became a little cloudy with age. I wholeheartedly disagree. They remember the time their children locked them out of the car on the side of the road. They remember their son wiping poo out of their diaper in an attempt to be a little Picasso on their bedroom wall. They remember the sassy attitude their daughter began to display at the tender age of 8 (and didn't let go of until the overdue age of 28). They distinctly remember after the 150th time of telling their child to take their hand out of the door jamb, and then consequently rushing them to the hospital with an almost severed finger. They remember the illnesses, sleepless nights, tantrums, mischief, down-right defiant moments, the ill-behaved child in the store and the myriad of "fail" moments in parenthood. How could you NOT remember these moments, so intricately woven into your life as a parent?? I don't doubt for a minute nor do I short-change the mothers who have gone before me in their ability to remember or the wisdom that they've gathered in their time in the trenches, so to speak.

Oh no, these sweet, older mamas' message of Carpe Diem "is right" and it is "good". The author acknowledges THAT much (she just goes on to contradict herself from there). She misses the point ENTIRELY. These mamas are whispering Carpe Diem to young moms in grocery stores because THAT is the lesson they learned through all the hard years of parenting. Carpe Diem. To not sweat the small stuff. To not get so focused on today, tonight or tomorrow that it has robbed you of the ability to seek out the enjoyment of the NOW. These older moms aren't negating how difficult parenting is or that we have crappy days. No way. They are passing on a gem of wisdom to us young moms; a piece of wisdom they wish THEY hadn't turned their nose up at when sweet old ladies approached THEM in grocery stores. They are telling us - earnestly wishing to penetrate our thick skulls - to NOT long for bedtime; NOT long to just "make it through the day", to NOT focus on plans for today, tomorrow or next year; to NOT long to drop them off at school or daycare for 8 hours a day. They want us to seek out the joy in TODAY. Not tomorrow. Not next year. These sweet old mamas want us to CHOOSE to seek out the moment and seek out glimmers of joy - even on the hard days, ESPECIALLY the hard days. They aren't delusional moms wandering the grocery aisles just waiting to make a frazzled mom feel bad. They are wishing for us what they wish they had done for themselves.

The author seems to have a disconnect with the term Carpe Diem and the intentions of older moms. The last half of her article she discusses the two types of time - Chronos and Kairos. Um, hello? Can we say Carpe Diem??? Carpe Diem IS Kairos. Yet, Carpe Diem is MORE than Kairos. It is both Chronos AND Kairos. Carpe Diem urges us to be an active participant in our DAILY life, not just to sit around and wait for a Kairos moment to hit us over the head. It is our job to make our Chronos moments (which, by the way, is our daily life, without concern for the future) Kairo moments, as much as possible. THAT is what the term Carpe Diem IS, people! Make your Chronos moments, Kairos moments!

But more so, having more Kairo moments than just, you know, regular 'ol every day Chronos moments (which, again, makes up most of our life) is all about a mind set. It is a choice. You can CHOOSE to see the beauty in a moment as desperate as you may be reaching for it on those tough days, but it is still up to you. If we only see things as hard, difficult, stressful and negative, then, yes, they are. All of those things. For that is the filter by which we CHOOSE to see our life as a mom. Or we can Carpe Diem our days. We can actively pursue the joy of the moment without being caught up in our future plans. We can choose to see more of our Chronos moments as Kairo moments. Carpe Diem is lifting up the idea that our Chronos moments ARE Kairos moments. Or they can be, if we let them. It is up to you to glean the nuggets of joy from them.

The thought that these women are abusively standing on the sidelines yelling 'COME ON! AREN'T YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF?!?! WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU??' - as the author of the post has suggested - is absurd and extreme. Far from waiting on Mt. Everest to beat down the people climbing it, these moms, that have been in the trenches MUCH longer and have learned a thing or two, are cheering us on in the most positive, supportive way. "Let go of your to-do list, Honey. Don't let yourself long for bedtime or school hours, to be rid of your children. Don't rob yourself of the joy that is yours to be found -if you would only look - in each of your days with your kids". That. That is what I hear them say when a grandmother or older woman looks lovingly at my kids and reminds me to "Enjoy this time because it goes so fast."

The Bible tells us to be mentored by the older wives and moms so we know how to take care of our families, yet, if we develop the attitude the author has, we risk missing all the wisdom the generations before us have learned. We are to have teachable hearts on what these veteran moms can teach us. This author would rather stew in the self-pity of how hard parenting is and harshly criticize the intent of these older moms.

The author had a hope for how she wants to approach a mom when she's old and gray - "Carry on, soldier. Only 6 hours until bedtime", among other things. This poor mom is clearly confused on what the term "Carpe Diem" means, let alone, the point of the wisdom to enjoy your time with your kids. I'm sorry but counting down the hours (or minutes)until bedtime is hardly having Kairos eyes to grab those moments of "God's time". Her eyes are too focused on the clock to see the moments of Kairos. These older mamas KNOW that moms get tunnel vision. We get too caught up in the chores, the to-do lists, the demands, the plate juggling, the plans of today, tomorrow or next year. They know this how?? Because these sweet older women, who miss the days of raising a family, WERE THERE ONCE. I hope I pass on the solid truth that as moms we get too caught up in the to-dos, the chores, the crazy behavior, the plans for tomorrow or next week or next year.

I don't want to settle for "a couple of Kairoses a day for me" like the author of that post. No way. And that is PRECISELY what these older women are saying too - "Don't settle. Change your focus." A couple of Kairos moments is NOT good enough for me. Perhaps I am swimming against the masses but I want more.

As for me, I will gladly welcome a sweet, older mama caring enough to remind me to Carpe Diem my day, especially when my kids are behaving at their worst. It is a lovely reminder to look for the beauty in my children and in my days spent with them. It is them saying to me, "yep, parenting is hard work but don't get caught up in that part. Look for the moments to grab joy in your Chronos time, for in that mindset, you will find more than one or two Kairos moments a day. You'll find a multitude of Kairos moments - of CARPE DIEM moments - if only you change your focus." That. That is the message I want to share when I'm old and gray. I hope you do too.

I leave you with two inspiring thoughts on Carpe Diem: 1) this simple reminder from a cartoon my kids enjoy and 2) The movie that made the term, "Carpe Diem" popular.

It's all about attitude! In the words of Phineas and Ferb, "grab those opportunities every day" to Carpe Diem with your kids!

Well we hope you all enjoyed the show
Hope it was not anticlimactic
Now there's something we want you to know
And we don't want to sound didactic

But if there's one thing we can say
I know it sounds a bit cliché
There's no such thing
As just an ordinary day

And you don't have to build a roller coaster
Just find your own way to make the most of
These days of summer

You can dance to the beat of a different drummer
Just grab those opportunities when you see 'em
'Cause every day's a brand new day, you gotta Carpe Diem

And you don't have to build a roller coaster
Just find your own way to make the most of
Every minute

No more waiting for the right time, you're in it
Just grab those opportunities when you see 'em
'Cause every day's a brand new day, baby, carpe diem

Dead Poet's Society - Robin Williams. Enjoy!


  1. Well said. Thank you for putting into words what many of us feel and believe, attempt and achieve,think and say. Carpe diem!

  2. Thank you, The Allergic Angel. I appreciate your kind words!

  3. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I was sad when I read her post - and dismayed by many of my friends who rallied around her perspective. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. (buzzandkim on Huffpost)

  4. Thank you so much for this post...I was also sad when I read Don't Carpe Diem. I think she mixes the encouragement of validating the fact that parenting is HARD with some unwise, selfish thoughts. I am grateful for seeing some responses like yours to the post and hope many people see them.

  5. Thank you, kc! I normally let those articles go (despite how annoyed or irritate I get with them) but this one... this one, I felt compelled to respond.

  6. Thank you, Anna! I agree with you that there is a dangerous mix in her words. Thank you for your kind words!