The other morning was the same as every weekday morning in our house. The kids came to the dining room table to eat their breakfast, one wide awake and giddy, and the other not so much. I stared at my coffee maker as the coffee dripped at a pace that felt far too slow while my dog danced around the kitchen willing me to let him outside. The kids ate their breakfast, and I put the ice packs in their lunch boxes. I began emptying the dishwasher in my usual mechanical way, mugs and glasses first, dishes next, and finally silverware. Just as I finished, the kids both ushered in with their dirty dishes. It’s our morning dance. It’s a dance we have perfected with time.
Next I moved on to the stage where I feel like a sheep herder. I shout short commands that are either met with silence or frustration. Boys brush your teeth, make your beds, hurry up it’s time to get your shoes on. The bus is coming!!! We meander out into the cold to greet the big yellow school bus. I give them each a kiss and tell them to have a good day and just like that the day is in full go mode. Like every other parent on the planet, I never feel like there is enough time in any given day. I rush from one task to the next hoping to be able to check off most of my list before that bus pulls up to drop the boys off because once they get dropped off, it’s homework time and then we rush off to our activities. Once we arrive back home I make dinner while fantasizing about climbing into bed and falling asleep.
My girlfriends and I often joke that we feel like hamsters on a wheel. The laundry can feel all consuming. The meal prep never seems to end. We are working, all while trying to delicately balance the daily life that comes with having a family. Homework, grocery shopping, permission slips, school theme days, doctor appointments, cleaning, science projects, meetings, soccer practice, and the list goes on and on and on. Sometimes I feel like I’m a catcher and the pitcher is whipping ball after ball with no break in between. Sure it’s exhausting, but it can also feel isolating and overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong my husband does just as much around here. We are all just trying to keep our heads above water.
I have never been someone who makes New Year's resolutions. It’s not because I don’t think I have room to improve, because I do. We all do. It’s because I don’t like to set myself up for failure. I always thought New Year resolutions had to be these grandiose proclamations. I’m just not ambitious enough to decide on January 1st that I’m going to change my entire body composition or go to bed by 9 p.m. every night, or write a book. Okay, so going to bed earlier probably wouldn’t be completely crazy, but somehow it would still feel like a lot of pressure to me.
The other morning though something changed all that. After the kids and I completed our regular morning dance, I went into my bedroom to make my bed. My youngest son was brushing his teeth and then he called for me. I went into the bathroom and saw his little smiling face staring back at me from the reflection in the mirror. Then I saw my reflection and I noticed how stressed I looked. Just as I was about to say; What buddy? You have to hurry up. I stopped myself and instead I looked at him and smiled. That’s when he looked at me and said, “Mommy will you comb my hair for me?” He handed me the comb. As I started to comb his hair I had a moment of clarity. I think moments of clarity often come during the simplest times. Although they seem to come when we need them the most, if we don’t take a minute to notice them they can pass us right by without so much as a warning. As I stood there combing my 6-year-old’s hair, I realized there will come a day when I will do this for the last time. I won’t know it’s the last time though. There will come a day when I no longer have two kids chattering away at the breakfast table while I stare at the coffee brewing. There will come a day when I no longer have lunch boxes to pack, or a full dishwasher to unload. As I tried to hide the tears that were welling up in my eyes, my son looked at me and asked if I was okay. “Mommy is fine bud. Actually mommy is really good.”
I brought the boys to the school bus, and kissed them both goodbye. I waited to watch the bus actually pull away and round the corner until it was no longer in my sight. I realized that stressing over my list of things to accomplish is causing me to miss out on the two most important parts of that list. There will come a day when that school bus leaves my sight for the very last time. There will come a day when the sound of the school bus in my neighborhood will remind me of the two little boys who used to run off every afternoon, eager to tell me all about their day. As parents we take note of all the firsts, but we don’t do the same for the lasts. It’s not because the lasts aren’t important, it’s because we don’t get a warning that they have arrived.
As I walked back into my house I made my first New Year's resolution. I decided to make a valiant effort to be present instead of worrying about every little thing I should be getting done. When my son called for me I could have said I was making my bed and told him to finish up, but I would have missed out on a moment that felt so much bigger than a comb and a mirror. I saw him. I really saw him. I saw a mother and a son. I saw a little boy who still wants and needs his mommy, and for a brief moment I saw a big teenager who would no longer need me to comb his hair. Far too often I tell my kids they have to wait because I’m in the middle of vacuuming, or cooking, sending an email or making a phone call. What will happen if I skip the vacuuming, order takeout, or put off the email for an hour or so? Well, with any luck I won’t miss out on any of their lasts. We can’t control how fast time moves, but we can control how we spend that time. I tucked them both in that night and as I closed their doors I silently willed them to give me some type of warning when the last tuck in is near. I know I won’t get a warning though, so until then I’m going to make sure I don’t miss one.
This originally appeared on Jennifer's blog, Outsmarted Mommy.