Saturday, June 28, 2008

In the moment

As a mother, I am always trying to savor the here and now of my son's childhood. I rarely encounter a stranger who does not tell me to enjoy Josh while he's young or warn me of the speed with which the early years evaporate. It is a universal truth that everyone feels compelled to share, yet so often, my mind can't seem to stay in a given moment. It prefers to be making mental dinner plans, brainstorming weekend outings, or adding and deleting to-dos from my neverending list. Joshua climbs up the playground ladder and slides gleefully down the spiral slide as I calculate how much of this week's budget I have already spent or try to remember whether I replied to a client's e-mail. It's not until I hear him cry out after bumping his head on the railing that I am jolted back to the moment I was supposed to be soaking in.

As Catherine Newman, one of my favorite introspective writers about all things child-rearing, once wrote in her Wondertime magazine article about the art of mindful parenting, "I had mastered a number of skills in my life — to be smart, capable, efficient — but it turned out that being still wasn't one of them. Even with a newborn, I found myself constantly in motion: toward a different moment, a different place, a different experience."

There are plenty of parenting moments I can't help but absorb. In fact, many times I'm downright stuck in them. Like the ones in the middle of the night when Josh vomits all over himself and his bed (or even worse, my bed and me), or the ones where I have to drag him across the floor just to get his clothes on or off. The problem is that those are not the moments I want to gather in both arms and carefully pack away in my cedar chest. Those are the moments that long-time moms quickly forget, especially those who are considering just one more baby. Those moments disappear as quickly as the pain of childbearing once you hold that small pink baby in your arms.

But it's not even the big moments I'm desperate to hold onto — not the trips to Disneyland or Christmas morning or his first day of kindergarten. Those memories are predestined to stick. I'm concerned about missing the unexpected surprises. The gleeful smile of my infant when he learns to put his toe in his mouth while I'm absentmindedly matching up socks. The sweet cadence of my toddler's voice when he turns to me out of the blue and quietly says, "I love you, Mommy" for no particular reason while I'm chatting away on the phone. Or the triumphant sigh when my preschooler figures out how to slide down the pole at the park all by himself while I'm watching the cars pull in and out of the parking lot.

As a parent who works (albeit part-time), I often worry about what I'm missing while my son is at school or at his grandparents' house. He inevitably bursts through the door in the afternoon with burning news — anything from "I got to hold a duck and two chicks!" to the ever-popular and ever-exciting "I ate a cookie!" But I'm realizing that the adventures I miss while I'm stuck at my desk are not truly the lost moments. No. The lost moments are the ones I'm actually present for yet completely miss. The moments I held in the palm of my hand yet let blow away with the wind. Those are the moments I will never get back. Yet ironically, they're the ones I will never even know I missed.

1 comment:

Kate said...

just discovered your blog...this was a lovely post-- and so very true. I wrote an entry the other other day about the same sort of struggles in being a mama who is not just there, but really, well, there. With three kids-- ages 9,3, and 5 months-- I really sense how fast it goes, and how if I'm always looking ahead (or behind for that matter) I miss the stuff of our story. So thanks for the reminder. I'm going to sign off and watch the littles lost in sleep for a few minutes, just because.

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