Let me tell you about a cardinal rule of writing: avoid cliches.
I spent six years in college learning ways to avoid cliches. My paper degree says "English Writing, Rhetoric and Composition," but it could say "Professional Cliche Avoider." As a writer, it's my job to present you with fresh strings of words and brand-new metaphors, no matter how tired my chosen topic is. There's good reason for this rule, too: cliches are familiar, and familiar things start to blur around the edges. When we've seen something a thousand times, we begin to not see it at all. Those pieces you read and feel like you've read before are likely full of raggedy similes and worn cliches that you've heard again and again.
Now let me tell you a cardinal rule of motherhood: the cliches are true.
This week has me full of emotion (thanks for nothing, sappy commercials). My second Mother's Day is approaching this weekend, we're finding out the gender of baby number two next week, and Charlie is rapidly approaching her second birthday. Did I mention my seasonal allergies are making my eyes water? That's what it is—really. Allow me to say out loud the cliche that's on repeat in my head: where did the time go?
It's all I can say because I'm honestly flabbergasted. I don't have any new words to describe this millennia-old emotion; I can't muster a single new phrase to tell you about this feeling. Whenever I'm confronted with the reality of how fleeting our years with our children are, my mind can only produce a string of cliches that somehow I'm nodding along with weepily.
I blinked. The days are long and the years are short. My heart got ripped in two and now half of it toddles around my back yard. Am I a good mother? I need to savor more. I need to finish her baby book. I need to take more pictures. I need to be in more pictures with her. It’s going too fast, I will miss her this size, I will miss pregnancy, I will miss her as an only child, I will miss this baby's kicks inside me, I will miss this, I will miss this, I will miss this.
The cliches exist because they're true. I can try to put my years of education and my writing skills and my rules and maxims toward telling you something new about these emotions, but here's the honest-to-goodness truth: sometimes it's too hard for us to put our own words to what we're feeling. These achey growing pains in my chest are best served by the words we all use—those tired cliches that we started hearing while our bellies and ankles swelled and we painted nurseries in pastels.
Many cliches feel too old to be true anymore—they're threadbare and meaningless. Cliches about parenthood often feel more like a comfortable pair of jeans or a well-loved blanket. They remind me that millions upon billions of other mothers and fathers have felt this way before. They tell me I'm not alone; we could fill books with our shared, oft-repeated phrases about parenthood. We need feeble cliches so we don't have to wrestle to communicate these overwhelming truths. We can just swap them back and forth, nod to each other, and complain that the pollen this time of year really irritates our eyes.