This is my new mantra: Be present.
When my children were very young I longed for the days when I would not have to work my life around nap time, snack time, diaper time, tantrum time. I couldn’t wait until they could tie their own shoes, put on their own clothes and get their own glass of water.
Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved these children right to the core of my soul. They are my life, my soul, my breath. My love for them is fierce and I have dedicated my adult life to protecting and teaching them. But I imagined the days when they were not dependent on me to wipe runny noses or bring each forkful of food to their mouths. And it was intoxicating.
Then they grew and although I was able to go for a gallon of milk without bundling them up in snowsuits and strapping them in to car seats, they needed me for other things, things that ultimately didn’t include me, things anyone could do. Suddenly they only needed me for rides to practice, help with Geometry homework, signing permission slips, buying school clothes.
There are things about having older children that I love. They are funny, witty, sometimes sarcastic children who laugh with (and occasionally at) me. They are intelligent, creative, kind and compassionate. They are becoming young adults who sometimes test their boundaries but who still look to me for my opinions and advice. They amaze me every day.
But lately I find myself missing the days when they would climb into my lap, their favorite tattered blanket in hand, and curl up close enough to hear my heart beat as I read them a book. I miss smelling their freshly washed hair as they fell asleep next to me because they couldn’t bear to be in a room alone. I miss the funny comments, the nonsensical questions, the unadulterated belly laughter that can only come from someone as innocent as a young child.
And I realize how much time I wasted wishing for the future.
This year I have a middle schooler and a high schooler. I’m still not entirely sure how it happened. I’m not sure how I ended up with a daughter who is thinking about prom dresses and a son who is taller than I. I’m not sure where those chubby cheeked, roly poly babies went. Try as I might, I can’t remember the moment when it all changed.
I realized that in three short years I will send her to college and him to high school and it suddenly became clear where I went wrong.
I wasn’t present.
I am determined to soak up every moment of this journey. I will turn off the radio in the car and listen to their every word, wrap those conversations in a bow and tuck them away so I can untie them later and treasure them all over again. I will sit with them while they do homework instead of worrying about the plants that need watering or laundry that needs folding. I will sit in silence with them and watch whatever they are watching on TV, inane as it may be, rather than retreating to another room to watch my own program. I will insist that sometimes we turn off the cell phones, computers and video games and play a board game, a card game, a lawn game. I will hug them even when they don’t want to be hugged, look into their eyes and memorize who they are in right now. I will put my camera on Auto and capture these moments, missed focus and crappy composition be damned. And sometimes I will put the camera away and trust that the memories will live in my heart forever.
I will be present.
I will have decades to catch up on scrapbooks, read the classics & travel the world. I will have a lifetime to train for a marathon, scrub the floors & study philosophy. For now I will give them my full attention, I will treasure the moments that might otherwise seem inconvenient and I will overlook the small annoyances. I will accept them for who they are right now instead of imagining who they might be in the future. I will make sure to show them every day that which I have always known: they are my world. Nothing is more important than they are.
I will be present.