By Melissa Stefanec
Somewhere between all the obligations, parents lose something really important.
We spend our days caught up in a whirlwind of things to do. The responsibilities are many and the breathing room is scarce. We worry about our immediate family, our extended family, work, school activities, homework, exercise, social obligations, bills, mortgages, budgeting and meal planning. Not to mention actively parenting our children.
In that mess of busyness, we rarely have time to savor the moment or reflect on the important things. The time we spend worrying robs us of the joys of simple things. Paradoxically, enjoying a simple moment is one of the best ways to put gas in our tanks.
So, how can busy parents make room for enjoying the small and beautiful moments in our lives? I don’t have the perfect answer, but I think we have to force ourselves to slow and savor some moments. This is hardly a novel concept, but it’s incredibly hard.
This month, I’m going to reflect on some of the tiny moments that make me immensely thankful for being a parent. Some of them are mundane. Some are silly. But it’s my hope that finding beauty in my ordinary life might help someone else do the same.
• Driving past the cows — Our route to school passes a small beef farm. The cows and bulls are very close to the road. There are often babies wandering about the pasture. My kids and I are always cooing at the babies. We compete to see who can spot the calves first. We marvel at how quickly the calves grow. Sometimes, we roll down our windows and moo. It’s great to be silly.
• Giving the kids a beater — A lot of baking happens in my home. I like to roll the dice and let kids lick batter (and a little bit of raw egg) off the beaters. I love bellowing across the house, “Who wants a beater?” and having them run up saying, “Me, me, me.” I like watching them make a mess. There is a beautiful innocence to it.
• Walking behind my family — When we are out and about on a family hike or walk, sometimes I lag behind my family. I love to watch them walk ahead of me. Sometimes they are hand in hand.
Sometimes they are being goofy. There is just something so beautiful and ephemeral about watching my husband walk with one of my kids on each side. One day, they might be taller than him. But I will always remember the days when they were small.
• Getting schooled on action figures — My 7-year-old son is a master of invention. If I sit down with him when he’s playing with his toys, he regales me with wildly creative backstories. The details in the stories rival legal documents in their intricacy. His imagined plotlines warm my heart. They are a much-needed break from the grown-up talk of finances and the state of the planet.
• Watching the stars — If there is anything that can make gazing into the starry heavens better, it’s doing so with my children. When we have evening fires, they often ask me to come stare at the skies with them. I’m thankful for every time I oblige their requests. Listening to their questions and thoughts about the constellations and planets makes me feel a little more alive.
• Watching my kids play in the yard — There is a mysterious beauty to watching children play when I can’t hear what they are saying. It’s fun to imagine what their narratives might be. Watching kids get along with each other, no matter how different they might be, gives me a hope that I carry with me throughout the day.
• Being read to — On my luckiest days, my children offer to read to me. I love that we all share a love of reading. It may be tricky for me to follow plot lines without proper phrasing, but what they lack in diction, they make up for in heart. I could linger in those little literary moments for hours.
• My kids giving me food from their garden — This year, my kids had their own little garden. They grew peppers, tomatoes and pumpkins. On summer and early fall days, they would make me come and marvel at their garden close up. When I was working, they would bring me treats from their garden. They wanted me to be impressed and share their little bounties with me. I won’t soon forget the adoration and pride in their eyes or their willingness to give what little they had.
• Chalking the driveway — One of our favorite family activities is to chalk our driveway. Sometimes we make it pretty. Sometimes we make it silly. Sometimes we make it about schoolwork.
Whatever the topic, it calms all of souls to get our emotions out on the pavement. The fact that it will wash away only makes it more valuable. That way, we always have another chalk session to look forward to.
Each day is full of hundreds of moments. Some are frustrating. Some are maddening and some are trite.
The amazing moments are hard to come by.
However, I just need to follow my kids’ leads. I need to stop being too busy to find the beauty in a pepper, starry sky or driveway doodle. I need to stop doing and take moments to live.