Standing in the Trader Joe's check-out line, with a mind full of bills to pay and tasks to complete, a silver-haired woman smiled down at the sleeping baby strapped to my chest and said, "Don't blink. It all goes by so fast." As parents, we've all heard these sentiments and we've marveled in our own disbelief at how quickly time passes with children. A decade has passed since I first began hearing the "revel every parenting moment" remarks, and although I have savored my fair share of sweet moments, I have also crafted plenty of escape plans for the moments I felt were only marginally bearable.
If you are a parent, then you know the moments I'm talking about. There's the "it's time to get out the door and 'Mommy, I can't find my shoes!'" moment, or the, "It's bedtime and "No, I won't brush my teeth!" moment, or how about the "dinner needs to get on the table and "Daddy, I was playing with it first!" moment. In all these parenting moments, only one thing is for certain, life's clock continues ticking no matter how sweet or unsavory the present moment presents itself.
Years ago, I joined ACT for Families (formerly Saturday Circus) in an attempt to prolong the alarming emergence of grey hair I was sure parenting three young children was responsible for. As I learned to structure our mornings and encourage the children, our "getting out the door" parenting hassles were replaced with an abundance of moments I deemed revel-worthy, and a mindfulness tool we practiced in class, Notice 5 Things, helped me see, hear and feel all that sweetness. Notice 5 Things has also helped me to "see the possibilities" when I am stressed, and this practice has come in handy time and time again.
Recently, I was sharing with my family around the dinner table how overwhelmed I had been that morning. I was late teaching my childbirth class and a critical component of the class, my laptop, was seemingly nowhere to be found. I told them how I searched high and low while my mind berated itself for not being prepared earlier. I told them how my mind even said, "maybe one of these small children hid it somewhere." Our minds do and say wacky things when we're stressed, I told them. "But just then", I said, "I remembered, 'Notice 5 Things!'" "I stopped everything and began noticing five things I could see, 1) The clock on the wall, 2) the pumpkins on the counter, 3) my laptop...MY LAPTOP, right in front of me!!!" I had been so stressed and was so caught up in my thoughts that I could not see it sitting in plain view. Shoveling forkfuls of enchiladas, we all had a good laugh as I recounted how I hadn't even made it to five things before the mystery had been solved.
Then, the next day, those years of easy, sweet getting-to-school mornings dissolved when the ten-year old's first band practice began at an hour the children found unjust, and this mother was admittedly unprepared for the pièce de résistance that ensued. Stressed and overwhelmed, I found myself nagging and cajoling, two parenting behaviors that had never proven useful in these situations, yet here they were cropping up again and only serving to fan the flames. As the sense of urgency to "just get out the door" boiled, I angrily demanded, "put on your jacket, grab your lunch, and GO!" Then, instantly I said, "Wait, I'm sorry. I feel so angry and stressed out right now and I don't like the way I'm acting." My seven-year old said, excitedly, "Mommy! Notice 5 Things!" "Oh yeah! Okay," I said out loud, "I see, one...the clock, two...the pumpkins." Then, after pausing to admire puffy toddler cheeks, I continued, "three...Stella," and two big brown eyes, "four...Miles", and finally, a prideful grin, "five...Julian." I dropped to the living room floor and as they climbed on and wrapped me in hugs, I said, "I'm not feeling angry anymore. I feel worried I won't get you to school on time, but you are more important to me than getting to school on time."
Three bright-smiled children prepared to head out to the minivan, and I continued noticing; wet kisses lingering on my cheeks, the black velvet interior of a trumpet case, a small voice saying "I help carry that, Juwean," a blue monster backpack, a woosh of chill morning air, falling red maple leaves, a grey door sliding open, and finally, a sweet, sweet sound, "Mommy, are you coming?"
Laura Backen Jones