If you knew how mind-numbingly boring so many of my days feel, you’d probably raise an eyebrow at the title of this post. (I would.)
But I don’t mean “slowing down” in relation to speed.
I really try to be as present as possible for my kids, but I admit – I am often guilty of looking at my phone or my computer screen while my toddler tugs on my hand, begging me to play or give her a snack or just give her some attention. Sometimes she’ll point to my phone and say “off”, which really makes me cringe. Because the girls are so close in age I know that at any given moment they would both love for me to be focusing on them. I know that I’m not so bad. It never feels like enough though, even taking technology out of the equation. I know that it will get easier as they grow (it’s already gotten so much easier), but for now I feel like it’s only possible to get quality time with one when the other is asleep.
I spend too much time thinking about the future. The future! When things will be easier! When I will feel personal fulfillment outside of my children! When I will feel like a useful member of society! The future! It’s not that I’m anxious for time to pass. I have always placed too much emphasis on how things will be when.
It’s also hard to remember that being a Mom is the most important job in the world when sometimes you don’t breathe fresh air for a week. When your husband is the only adult you’ve seen or talked to in much too long. When you’re exhausted at the end of the day but lie in bed struggling to fall asleep because a) the baby could wake up soon anyway, b) you can’t relax, c) ?????????. When you should really shower but you don’t want to because you could spend that time doing something that uses your brain. When you still feel like an adult with worthwhile feelings and thoughts and talents but have no outlet for them other than social media, and social media is so exhausting and polarizing and WHO HAS THE TIME.
I know, I know. I have it so hard.
Trust me, I go back and forth between wanting to feel validated and feeling like I should just be grateful so much it’s giving me whiplash. I have basically come to the conclusion that the easiest (?) thing for me to change is my own attitude. And so I’ve been working on that. Choose joy. Choose gratitude. Repeat.** Not that I should give up on my own goals completely. But just….accept that it’s going to take time.
**I think it’s worth mentioning that a lot of what I struggle with has nothing to do with what I discuss on my blog. I often wish I could explore these very personal things here, but it would not be appropriate.
Honestly, some days it’s not that hard. Easy, even. My kids and my husband are so. awesome.
Which brings me to slowing down.
It goes so fast. It might be the most cliché, most repeated message about parenthood that there is. Random people who see your family will note your children and then tell you to enjoy it, because it goes so fast! It’s true. It does. Having my girls seventeen months apart has really knocked that information into our heads. I look at Violet and think – wasn’t Willow just this small? Weren’t we just doing this or that with her? Yes, you were.
In the summer of 2013 I read Jim Gaffigan’s Dad Is Fat. Or maybe I should say I laughed until I cried through it. The last essay of the book is titled “You’re Going To Miss This”. Even though it has Mr. Gaffigan’s trademark humor all over it, it has a poignancy that cannot be ignored.
I already miss things. So many things. I don’t miss having to tiptoe through Willow’s room to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but I do miss opening the door and being hit by that delicious baby smell. It smelled like fluffy clouds and rainbows and filled me with a tenderness that I just can’t describe. Her room doesn’t smell like that anymore. (If it smells like anything now, it’s probably poop.) The irresistible chub that covers Violet’s body is disappearing all too quickly from Willow’s. My tiny crooked baby is turning into a beautiful little girl. She has opinions and feelings and thoughts that are all her own.
So now, instead of wishing for something else, I’m trying to slow down. Instead of thinking about how much I’d like to go back to bed in the middle of the night, I’m focusing on how dense and warm Violet’s body is against mine. How her dimpled hands seek my skin in the dark. Some things won’t be difficult to remember – like how she lights up when I walk into the room – but the feeling that comes with it won’t be so easy to hold onto. Violet won’t always think I am the sun and moon. Willow won’t always laugh so easily when I tickle her or make a funny face. When she says “Mama!” and runs to me, arms open, I want to live in that moment forever.
The pride I feel as I watch them grow and become themselves is overwhelming. This time is magical. These moments aren’t going to last. That’s when is when I get in trouble and want to have a lot of kids. (By a lot, I mean 4.) It’s a very different story when its 5 a.m., both girls are awake and demanding things of me, and I think that maybe, just maybe, I could be okay with being “done”.
I’d love to say that being a mother has cured me of my selfishness. It hasn’t. It’s brought it into sharp focus and placed it right in front of my nose to deal with. Raising a child really is the biggest responsibility and opportunity I can think of. It is your job to make sure your child is a good person. And that forces you to be a better person. I hope someday I can explain to them how much they’ve taught me, and how much they’ve changed me for the better.
The growing, the teaching, the moments. Little fingers. Little smiles. Little voices.
In 20 years will I remember writing this and think, “It went so fast”?
I remember a friend telling us that after you become a parent, the peaks and valleys of your life get more extreme. Your joy is greater. Your sorrow is worse. This bittersweet combination has left me close to tears the entire time I’ve been typing this.
The other night Tom and I watched Boyhood, which has certainly upped the feels. As I watched it, of course I thought of my own children. But more prominent was the feeling that it wasn’t that long ago that I was in high school, on the path to becoming myself. It doesn’t feel like that long ago that I asked Tom, “Are you free from 12:18 to 1:06?” (My lunch period.) This year I will have graduated from college 10 years ago. There’s no way. It’s gone SO fast.
So, I’m going to slow down. This is the year I’m going to get better at living in the moment. These moments with my kids, with my husband – in the middle of the night, at the crack of dawn, deliriously tired or discouraged or happy and so full of love, or, this very second when Willow burst into the room because she just had to show me that she had water AND juice! – these moments are my life. I really don’t want to miss anything.
“You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I know, it’s constant, the moments, it’s just — it’s like it’s always right now, you know?”