Ever since I had children, my favorite time of the day has been when I am without them. It’s not that I don’t love, cherish, and appreciate them. I absolutely do. But as a stay-at-home mom, I don’t “get” to be with my children — I have to.
I used to love the calm of the house when I put my toddler down for his first nap. After the frantic rush to get my husband out the door and my older son to school, I had an hour or so to collect my thoughts and plan for the day.
For years, I have looked forward to the post-bedtime lull. The exhausting day was done and I had two or even three hours spread out before me for writing, cleaning, shopping — sometimes even for reading a book or a watching TV.
But my favorite could be when I have the rare opportunity to leave the house (gasp) by myself. It’s a cliché, but a simple trip to Target is a luxury. If I go alone, there is no one to chase through the aisles; no one else’s needs trump my desire to linger over throw pillows or kitchen towels.
My children are young. They are adorable, hilarious, demanding, and active. They are at the ages when strangers or well-meaning relatives tell you to “cherish” them. But I don’t cherish my time with them. I don’t “live in the moment” when I’m parenting. When you parent small children, your day is comprised of many difficult, frustrating, loud moments. I hurry through those moments, move past them until I tick another hour off the clock; another day off the calendar.
But I recently realized that when you wish away the minutes of your day, you wish away your life.
What are the things people remember fondly about their lives? Surely not a solo outing to the gas station or cleaning the kitchen while watching the latest addictive series on Netflix. If those aren’t the things I want to look back and remember, why am I valuing them now?
So, lately, I’ve been trying something new. I’m trying to recognize the good moments. The fun, happy, loving, fleeting moments that make up my children’s childhood. I know that soon enough my 6-year-old will grow out of saying “breafeket” and my toddler will stop jumping up and down, whining at me to hold him. These are the things I want to notice, to cherish, to remember.
Instead of defaulting to nap time or bedtime as my favorite time of the day, I’ve been trying to find a favorite time with my children instead.
It’s not easy. I have to consciously train myself to reframe the way I approach time, my children, my role as a parent — my life.
The other day, I was able to step back and enjoy an amazing moment with my children. We were at the grocery store, meaning my older son was asking for everything he saw and my toddler sprinted off, doing his best wild monkey impersonation. By the time we made it to the check out, I was annoyed, ready to snap at the kids for every move they made and every word they said.
And then, something beautiful happened.
My little guy reached for his brother, yelling “pick me up” at him instead of me for a change. Giggling, my older son wrapped his arms around his brother’s waist and hoisted him up. My toddler’s pudgy fingers clutched his older brother’s neck as they hobbled then twirled and both burst out laughing.
It was awesome. I shook my head and smiled, then joined in on the laugh-fest. This is it. This is the good stuff, I thought. If I had let my sour mood take over, I would have missed a wonderful experience with my children.
Parenting isn’t all good stuff, of course, but there are great times. Whether it’s my toddler delighting in hide and seek or my 6-year-old telling me I’m the best mommy ever (after I give him a cookie, but so what — it still counts). Those are the times I love and revel in. And it turns out, they’re not so few and far between. There are small, wonderful, loving moments every day in my parenting life. You just have to be able to take a step back and notice them.
Those moments are my new favorite times of the day.More On