My daughter was born 37 minutes before Mother’s Day, SIX years ago. This seems almost impossible somehow, and while I’ve read somewhere you aren’t supposed to do this, by the end of the summer I’ll have a 3, 6 and 9 year old. Writing that or saying that out loud makes me stop in my tracks, and certainly makes me want to freeze time right here, right now. I am starting to understand those middle aged ladies in the street that look at you with that deep longing in their eyes and say “Oh, cherish this time, they really do grow up so fast.” And there certainly was a time when I didn’t get this. When I would just look back at them and smile, but inside I was screaming, “Yes, but do you remember at all how hard this time was??!” And it is, of course. There are many many harrowing times in the life of a mother with young children. But how do we heed the advise of so many who have gone ahead of us, who seem to be actually trying to tell us something with that far off look in their eyes? Maybe they do have regrets, maybe there were things we could actually do to cherish the moments a little bit more. Lately, I’ve been thinking and reading and listening to audiobooks about the subjects of enjoying, appreciating and finding more meaning in life. (Yes, I am turning 40 soon!). I went on a camping trip with our family a couple weeks ago and we spent a week in the redwoods with no cellphone reception and no one in the entire campground except for us. It felt like a mini-retreat where all these things that I’d been learning could be realized. Since the trip, I’ve been trying my best to incorporate these lessons into everyday life.
Here are a few bullet points of things I am personally working on, in order to truly enjoy the very fleeting moments that the universe has graced me with these incredibly beautiful children. I have to give a shout out to Brené Brown and her audio-recording, The Power of Vulnerability, in shaping this short list.
- Play more: Those of you that know me, know I talk about this a lot. Getting on the floor, or in the back yard, or sometimes over a coffee table with a good game of Chinese Checkers, without a phone in sight. (And literally not in sight. My husband read somewhere that conversations are more shallow when we can even just see our phones). It is one of those things that is so much easier to talk about than to actually do. For me, the thing that always gets in the way, is the to-do lists. Recently, I finally came to the understanding that the to-do lists will never go away. There will always be work to do, always be laundry to fold, always be closets that could be organized better. Household tasks are actually more like a Sisyphean effort, that Greek god who was condemned to the everlasting and futile labor of pushing a heavy rock up a steep hill. I began to see that all these tasks were more like things I should be chipping away at than accomplishing, and that unlike my small children, they would always always be there. I have now found more freedom to put them down and enjoy ten minutes of just being present with my little ones. I also put this quote up on the rather large chalk board in my kitchen: “No one ever lays in their deathbed and says, ‘I should have cleaned my house more.’”
- Worry Less: Brené Brown talks about gratitude being the antidote for anxiety. I had never really thought about this before, but I’ve been trying it and having some surprising success. She says that anxiety stops us from enjoying the present moment. As moms, we sometimes worry a lot. I don’t even consider myself a “worrier,” but sometimes I find myself worrying about my children; who they will become, if something horrible will happen to them, if something horrible will happen to me? I’ve had, in recent years, some pretty tragic kinds of deaths around me, and I can tell you I don’t regret that I didn’t worry more about these people. If anything at all, I regret that I didn’t spend just one more pure and unadulterated moment of being truly present with them. So every time the mom worries creep, I stop and I give thanks for three things that I love about my child, or about being a mom, or about having this beautiful family right now. Because, at the end of the day, right now is actually all we really have.
- Listen Better: This definitely falls into the easier said than done category. Sometimes I feel like 4 people are talking to me at the same time, sometimes they are. Sometimes little girls tell really long stories. Sometimes I feel like having 3 children forces me into a state of only hearing 25-33% of what anyone is saying at any given moment. I really don’t want it to be like this. At dinner we do our blackberries (highs) and brambles (lows) and everyone has to give everyone else their full and undivided attention. I am working on doing this more, even in the midst of the business of family life. My youngest actually kind of demands it and wont move on until the person he is talking to acknowledges what he has said while making full eye contact. Through is persistence, he has taught me that full eye contact acknowledgement feels pretty good, that it allows lots of small glimpses into his magical two year old thinking, and that sometimes it only takes about ten seconds after all.
- Dance and Laugh Louder: When I was about 13 and just kind of beginning stage self-consciousness, my father and I went to what was called the “Craw-dad Festival” and when the right song came on, he started dancing there in the middle of the crowd. I actually loved the song and wanted to dance too. He saw the look in my eyes, took my hand, and said “Darling, dance like no one is watching, sing like no one is listening, and love like you’ve never been hurt.” We danced that day, and though he is gone now, I’ll forever cherish the lesson learned while creating that memory of the two of us dancing to Elton John in a crowd of onlookers. Dancing is something that everyone can do, at least while in your own kitchen. When things seem mundane or disconnected, I just have to play a good Daft Punk or Katy Perry song before dinner and the four of all five of us are swept up for a moment, and the world suddenly seems right again. My older sister had the loudest laugh in the school, and while actually making fun of her, I inadvertently took on her laugh as my own. It has been one of my most favorite (and noticeable) characteristics about myself since. I know something is off in my life when my Danielle laugh has not surfaced in a while. I’ll end with this, which maybe sums up this whole article of while we sadly cannot stop time with our little ones, we can certainly enjoy it all a little bit more.
"Always Find A Reason to Laugh. It May Not Add Years to Your Life But Will Certainly Add Life to Your Years."