Mothering was the task I was going to do perfectly – Learning to STOP
I am a person marvelously uncomfortable with pausing.
I could blame a fast metabolism, or a personality quirk, but those aren’t the heart reasons I have a hard time stopping.
The fear that underlies my quick moving attention is deep and difficult to approach. Like many parts of ourselves that we’d rather not examine, it’s easier to blame it on other things than it is to look square-on at my constantly flickering attention and ask myself –
Why don’t you ever stop? What are you running from?
A stop in the dark
In the middle of the night my three year old cries out – she has been coughing and wants Mama. I go to her and kneel by her bed. Thankfully, she calms quickly as I sit holding her hand. I watch as she stares dreamily at the fish tank glowing nearby. Her face is so peaceful that it stills the other thoughts flitting around my tired brain and I just see her – three years old, lying there in her cozy bed, watching the fish as she falls back asleep.
In that small ‘stop’ I remember my grandmother and the way she would look at me with my kids. “Just enjoy them.” she would say.
Easier said than done, I would think.
But tonight I look at my daughter I think again about my grandmother saying, “Just enjoy them. It only comes once.”
It only comes once.
This is what I run from. I feel the immense pressure of those words. I don’t want to stop…because I’m afraid.
No, I’m terrified, that if I stop and look around I will find out I’m ruining this “only comes once” time.
If I stop, I will have to face the fact that not only do I make mistakes, but that many of my parenting mistakes come from the most loving of intentions gone all wrong.
The perfectionist in me decided years ago, before I ever had kids, that mothering was the task that I would do perfectly.
Well, I can tell you THAT isn’t happening. (You’re all laughing with me now, right?)
But here I am with my daughter in the bedroom she will know the way we know places as children – viscerally and with emotion filled detail. I would bet that years from now she will have a memory of watching those fish the way I can remember the knots in the wood ceiling I used to stare up at as I fell asleep when I was a child.
And all I have to do to be part of those cozy memories is to stop.
Just for a moment I can take a breath and let go of:
What will happen next?
What else should I be doing?
What have I forgotten to do?
Taking a breath, I can stop, and for a few seconds be present, look at my daughter and be here with her.
In that moment when I stop, the world does not come crashing down. Instead something beautiful and timeless happens. In the stopping moment I get the privilege of being aware that I am part of this safety and care as she holds my hand and watches the glowing fish tank.
In those few seconds I look at my daughter and find the tiny balance point before once more rushing along with the fast moving days of life with young children. This night I recall my grandmother saying “It only comes once.” and I realized something.
I have been so afraid of messing up this time period – I run hellbent towards the mythical time that I will finally be the put-together mom I envision who enjoys her children and makes the most of their childhood because it only comes once.
But this is it. I won’t ever be the perfect mom.
And I don’t have to be.
I think about the love my grandmother had in her eyes when she talked about this time in her life and I realize maybe it isn’t about being on all the time, enjoying every moment!
We all have our messy lives to live with the loud and frustrating details, but sprinkled through those days, are the stopping moments.
These are the kind of moments my grandmother hoped I would notice. They are the memories she carried into her nineties. They are the gems she revisited when she looked at her great grand children. The stopping moments aren’t locked away, only given to the perfect. They are there in the cracks of an otherwise unremarkable day and I can collect them too.
All I have to do is stop.
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Beautiful! Love, love, love this!!
When I hear “enjoy every moment” from a well-meaning bystander, I try to tell myself that they’re saying what they’re saying because of love; they love children, they love families, and they love memories. And I try not to punch them in the throat. But ’cause I’m a contrarian, no I’m NOT going to enjoy the moment that someone tells me to enjoy. ‘Cause blow it out yer ear, bystander. Nobody tells me what to do. There are plenty of moments with my daughter that I simply don’t need to treasure whether its a meltdown or getting kicked in my sensitive places.
Having said that, I totally identify with the thought that in the midst of all the sass and growing pains as my daughter stretches to become a little bit taller, a little bit stronger, a little more capable, there are beautiful moments that can be lost if I’m not ready to find them. Like “tears in rain,” as Roy Batty says. I don’t go through my day trying to “treasure every moment,” as I’ve sometimes been told – that’s a recipe for a lot of guilt for a curmudgeon like myself. But I don’t mind the idea that I should try to find moments (or at least A moment, on those tough days) every day that are pure and beautiful. Because they’re there. Underneath all the difficulty, hiding behind schedules and activities, those moments can be uncovered. And like you say, those moments can pass by if I don’t make a concerted effort to find them. To “stop” and look. At minimum it might be going in to look at my daughter as she sleeps; but the more of those moments I can accumulate during the day, the better for everyone. And really, that’s not a bad outlook on life to teach kids either. That some days are going to be hard, but that they can become more bearable if you take a deep breath and prepare for that pure, beautiful moment. A butterfly doesn’t land on your finger if you’re running at break-neck speed. It waits until you’re sitting, still and quiet and hopeful, before it alights.
Yes – I love your butterfly analogy, thanks Neal.
Beautiful, wise reminder. Thank you for sharing.x
Love this post. As a working Mom, I find it difficult to stop, but I make a conscious effort of “not doing just being” and enjoying these fleeting moments in a life with my 7 year old.
Beautiful post Alissa. Thanks so much for sharing.
Tiffany | Finding the Story
Simply amazing and well put. I am even willing to admit I got a tear or two in my eye. …remembering to stop with my own family.
Robin Kramer @ Pink Dryer Lint
Such a beautiful reminder! Wise and true.