It's easy for solo parents and Must-Have Parents to live in the future, especially during deployment. We think ...
When this deployment ends ... When we go on that family trip ... When we get a long weekend ... After soccer season ... When we retire ...
It's easy for a Must-Have Parent to triage life. To do just what has to be done to get through. To survive. We think, either consciously or subconsciously, that there's no possible way we could enjoy this.
But THESE are the good days. These ARE the good days. These are the GOOD days.
It doesn't really matter which word gets emphasized. One day, we will look back on these -- yes, these -- days fondly. We will remember the crayon scribbles on the wall with laughter. We will recall the morning yelling wistfully. We will miss that crazy dog. We will yearn for a table full of mouths to feed. We will crave the beautiful messes and the chaos. We will want this back, even if only for a moment.
We will. I promise.
Or at least I think I promise. I believe it will happen because all the old ladies keep telling me that it will. And you don't get to be that old without learning at least a few things along the way.
It's easy for us to live on the horizon. Rushing through life, waiting to live. Thinking that real life will begin when we get to that spot that's just beyond our reach now. But then we get there and we catch a glimpse of another spot, one that looks even better, and we think, "Once I get there ..."
It's an endless cycle, one that makes us miss the beautiful moments we're having now, moments that we'll enjoy only once they become memories.
But the other day, over Labor Day weekend, I fought my laziness and aversion to anything that resembles a hassle, and I got the kids out of the house to go swim in a local swimming hole. Nothing fancy. We're blessed to live near the water and, though our community doesn't have public pools, it does have public swimming holes.
The temperature was pleasant and the lighting was golden hour perfect. I sat in my chair on the shore and watched them jumping off the dock and floating on their inner tubes. They laughed and splashed, cannonballed and swam.
I looked at my children -- MY children, now how did that happen? And why are there so many of them?-- the faint sprinkling of freckles on my six-year-old's nose, the fat rolls on my two-year-old's thighs, the deep brown tan my 9-year-old earned this summer -- and they were so beautiful that my eyes watered. My eyes are watering now with the memory.
But I'll keep it real for you. They weren't perfect for long. There was tattling and sand throwing and splashing and whining, too. Perfection can never last for more than a few seconds. And it was a huge hassle to load up and get there, and to load up and go home. But those few seconds were 20-year-old-snapshot perfect.
It hit me then that I'm living in the "good old" days right now.
Better yet, it also hit me that I will always be living in the "good old" days. Each stage, phase and reality will be both better and worse than the ones that came before. I don't have to trust the old ladies for this, either. I know this from my own experience.
In less than a decade, my children will start moving out. (I hope.) And I will cry, just like some of my friends cried this year as they sent their kids off to college. And then I will enjoy the peace and quiet, but I will miss the noise, too.
I will think back on those days -- these days -- when everything in the house was sticky, when cartoons blared from the TV, when I didn't dare walk barefoot in the dark for fear of Legos.
And I will think those were the good old days. But these are, too.