“Take the long view, I reminded myself, looking out across the fields to our own long view. Life finds its balance. Children grow up. Second chances come along. In the meantime, I could choose to savor this moment.” – Katrina Kenison
Can you forgive yourself for not living in the moment?
When our babies are sparkling new and swaddled up we set out with intentions we can believe in, but we just don’t know. We are going to live in the moment. We’re going to relish these baby years, these elementary years, for we have been told time and again how precious it all is, and how fleeting. And intrinsically, we know it to be true.
But, what we don’t know is that we are about to be swept up inside days and nights that bleed into one. And that our minds will fill with a sleep-deprived dense fog of anxiety and joy that is only overcome in miraculous small doses of clarity, rare and nearly impossible.
I can’t stand it when a mother of older children remarks, OH just you wait…you think it’s hard NOW…they become teenagers you know! OR the ever-popular, Oh it goes so fast, you need to cherish these days! They are the best days!
I think I hate it because I know it’s true and yet there is nothing I can do about this particular cold hard truth: I cannot stay in the moment and cherish everything and keep in mind how fast it goes and juggle all the life at once. I am only one me.
I still think people should stop saying these things, even though they’re true, but what scares me most is that, down deep, no matter what, I know these are truly some of the best days of my life and sometimes I’m willing them to pass so I can breathe. (Or get some sleep or eat a full meal while sitting.)
I’m reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison (I know, what took me so long?) and it’s rocking my world. I love it so much and it has me thinking really hard. Because on the fringes of my stubborn responses to the remarks that are made in my direction, by parents of older children, I have known that I’m going to miss every single part of this, so much. I have understood that these are the ordinary days that are so precious and I have known that slowing them down is completely out of my control.
I hate that. It’s exhausting to be so aware of these truths and so limited by fatigue all at once. The irony is not lost on me.
As my kids get just a little bit older, out of the physically demanding baby stage, and begin to embark on more and more autonomy, I struggle with letting go. Even kindergarten kicks my ass….I have no idea how hard it’s going to be to watch my kids drive away in a car, or start junior high or leave on a road trip to check out colleges. I have no idea what’s in store in the way of rebellion and independence, in the ways they will choose to find themselves apart from me.
I only know I will look back on being able to meet these needs, so exhaustingly, with a painful nostalgia. No matter how hard I try, I will be them–the remarkers. Though I have vowed to not actually voice these remarks, I will certainly feel them, speak them in my heart and I will have to bite my tongue so hard, to not say them to that mother of young children–bed-headed, circles under her eyes, chasing down a toddler with a baby on her hip, in Target.
As Kenison writes through the adolescent years of her sons, I’m astounded at how much I am already feeling her words. I’m so aware that I will be fighting to choose the lessons she is speaking, just as I am now. Be. Here. Now.
I’ve been doing this, OH look at the beauty!, since the start of the life of baby son number one, through adding another son and then one more baby, our girl. I have been fighting, but so much of the time I’m losing.
Can I forgive myself? Can I let it go? Can I recognize that Kenison has gotten so much better at living the ordinary things so presently because she’s had a few more years to grow into herself? Do I fully recognize that I have an overly busy creative mind and that I struggle with impatience and I really really need my sleep or I just can’t function, let alone focus on the beauty of all the moments?
Can you forgive yourself for the same failings?
I want you to try to do that with me, because what I’m realizing as my kids start to grow up is that I am getting so much better at it, right with Kenison. I read her words and I see and feel the beauty of the overturned coffee mug drying next to the sink while she takes in the mountain view from the kitchen window.
It is the extraordinary ordinary. I see it, too. So do you.
We see it, through our bleary eyes, our worries and the strain of trying to pay bills and juggle school activities and through our hunger for those future days of quiet hours when they’re all at school, or away, grown. Some days we just want that, because we can’t even see ourselves or out the window through the haze of demands.
It has nothing to do with being a terrible mother or an incapable gratitude spender. It has everything to do with being human. How we’re bristling with every ounce of energy spent, weary and bone-tired and anxious and behind.
There are moments, in the midst of that, when our young children shake us, unhinge the finger-printed lens of our hearts. They say or do something, any small or big thing that touches us and probably only us because we’re Mom. And our hearts swell with thankfulness and that kind of love that only we can have for these particular children. Then in a blink, it passes because someone hits someone and a screech interrupts the reverie and lately Elsie Jane keeps taking off her diaper, randomly, whatever is in it. Maybe I should potty train her, but I’m too busy worrying about Asher’s difficult adjustment to school, how he cries each and every morning and only answers BAD after I ask how his day was.
And yet, when they have gone away like this, to their own places for part of the day, I miss them so hard. I stand sometimes in the kitchen and look at the breakfast mess and I don’t mind at all cleaning it up, because I have time, because I have this moment to breathe.
I guess we can’t breathe in gratitude and stay in the moment unless we have time here and there to catch our breath.
Some of us rarely, if ever, get that chance. Forgive yourself.
Yes, there are ways to cut back on the drowning, the exhaustion. Spend more time offline, say NO more often and don’t refrain from doing something absolutely and totally unproductive every now and again. But Mamas, don’t forget that even if you do all of that right–if you fight for balance and make healthy choices, you are still Mama and you still have A LOT on your hunched shoulders.
We will. We will see the beauty. We do, even when we don’t see it. And we will, more and more, as these kids grow, I know we will. Even if it gets harder in the teen years in a myriad of ways. Even as we navigate all of their activities and friendships and moods. It will be demanding, of course it will. But please try hard to remember that the remarkers (who we will one day be) don’t fully remember. They don’t. I mean, I already don’t and my youngest is only two.
What was so upsetting about sleep-deprivation anyway? It didn’t last THAT long?
YES. It did. It’s just a blur because it was that hard. And because it was that hard, it is imprinted on our very souls. These imprints, in retrospect, are only a simple form, at a loss for the distinct memories that shape them. So we grow nostalgic for those grinding moments that burrowed down deep within without any true detailed recalling of what it was really like.
The fact that we hardly ever slept is not the only thing that we won’t remember clearly. We also won’t remember exactly what the pudgy little dimpled fingers looked like, until we pull out the pictures. We won’t be able to hear the tiny adorable cartoon-like toddler voices of our children, until we watch a home video. It will then all seem so perfect, in its entirety.
The focus of this space on the worldwide web is exactly what Katrina Kenison is talking about. I’m so grateful that it’s here and that I put down my feelings and pictures. That I hold close the moments, both messy and hard and beautiful and good, in stories. This is one of the ways that I focus on being grateful. This is one way I continue to see the extraordinary in every little and big thing.
And yet, I will look back at even these pages and wonder what the big deal was, sometimes. Because it’s true what they say. What I’m living then will be my trenches and the ones of today will be rose-colored fox holes, my friends.
Throwing in the towel is not the answer: Forget it, I can’t live in the moment anyway. Too hard! I will always strive to be.right.here.now….and I will go on forgiving myself when I just can’t, and then I will try again tomorrow.
“Sometimes it is a long, slow flowering. Sometimes it is necessary, as Galway Kinnell has written, “to reteach a thing its loveliness, to put a hand on its brow of the flower, and retell it in words and in touch it is lovely until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing.” – Kenison
That goes for both our children…and ourselves. We are growing up too, and we can only keep flowering if we forgive ourselves and touch our very own brow with blessing.
Here are some posts that might help you lift some of that heavy weight off your hunched shoulders:
Your Hard is Hard - well, it’s about YOUR hard being hard, since it is.
Free Pass - on giving YOU a free pass, like you would a friend
Remember - on missing already what we won’t remember
Passing the Bed - on motherhood, depression and hope