Sometimes, it feels like I have got this balance thing. Our children are now 6 and 9 years old. We have hit a sweet spot – they no longer need us to fill every minute of their day. They can amuse themselves, sometimes alone in their rooms, but often together, playing a board game, building a fort, having a Pokemon battle, pitching a whiffle ball. We can get some housework or food prep done. On occasion, we can even relax.
The children are bright and energetic and thriving.
I would see friends and family with toddlers and babies, diapers and sleep deprivation, and I would think, as much as I loved the baby snuggles and toddler cuteness, it was so much more fun now.
I thought we were finally coasting.
My birthday now falls at the end of a long line of family birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s Days and our anniversary. So by the time mine hits, I am a bit celebrated out.
This year, however, was lovely. I left work early and met my husband for a kid-free lunch at a restaurant where we would actually choose to eat. We arrived home while the kids were still in camp. I grabbed a float and a beach read and spent some time lazing in the pool. A few hours later, the kids came home, thrilled to find their parents in the pool. They quickly, happily jumped right in.
My daughter wanted to join me, so she shimmied herself on the float. As we drifted lazily in the pool, she looked at me, with a dazzling smile, emanating pure joy, and said, “What’s different?” Her energy was infectious, and I responded, “What do you mean?” She then said, “Something is different…. I know…. You’re smiling!”
I thought I had this. The kids were doing great. Work seemed to be working. I thought, we were doing fine. Then, two words from my daughter’s lips and I was no longer on solid ground.
Mother. Of. The. Year.
Somehow I held it together, that afternoon. But that one moment devastated me.
So focused on getting things done, I somehow glossed over the journey. I have always stayed two steps ahead, because I felt like that was what I needed to do, to keep all those balls in the air. I had no idea that, by doing so, I somehow lost sight of the present moments. And my daughter noticed. Shame on me.
After a brief pity party, I made a decision. I was done coasting. As the daughter of a parent who now lives only in the present, I need to recognize the beauty of the moment. I realized that I needed to slow down, and concentrate a little less on the big picture. As a result, this summer has been filled with later nights, ice cream dates, neighborhood adventures and silly laughter. Live present, live fully, engage.
I must be on the right track, because by the end of July, my daughter, unsolicited, offered up the highest of praise:
“The greatest gift you can give your kids is to be fully alive yourself.” Rob Bell