My little man and I have been flying solo this week. I’m always a little anxious in the lead up to the juggling act of parenting alone. Needless to say, we miss daddy like crazy, but I also quietly cherish our time together regardless of the added difficulties. Ironically, the overwhelm somehow creates a sense of clarity as I’m challenged to dig deeper and find solutions. There’s simply no room left for excess and I’m forced to disentangle complexity and appreciate what really matters.
And what really mattered this week, like always, was being in the moment. It’s so rarely practiced that it’s become our modern mantra; an unattainable necessity. Yet I know that if I can master, or remaster it, it will bring intense joy to my life. My son is a pro and I’m sure as a child, I was too. When did I lose my ability to exist so entirely in the now? When did I start ruminating about what happened yesterday and worrying about what probably won’t happen tomorrow?
I’m in awe of my young son as he outplays me time and again at our brightly coloured wooden animal memory game. I love watching his discernible concentration; his laser-like focus and dedication to perfecting another new skill. I wonder how a three-year-old could be more honed in than I am. Yet the answer is obvious; my mind constantly wanders, thinking about what I need to do next and crafting mental to-do lists.
Neglecting the gift of the present moment steals my happiness, sabotages much needed down time and robs those I’m with of my full attention.
Prioritizing the destination over the journey is a dangerous tendency and one that came into sharp relief for me earlier this week. Determined to have an adventure, I bundled my little guy up in his snow pants and mittens and set my intention on a powdery hike to a local frozen lake. Between our house and the trailhead however, is an enticing playground, a.k.a a mama-on-a-mission’s booby trap. We flew down the slippery slide and soared in the swings together but then I decided it was time to keep going. My son reluctantly agreed to follow my lead.
Half an hour later, slogging through the snow and ice, carrying a forty pound little boy whose only wish by then was to go home, I began asking myself’ “What the hell am I doing?” I’d been determined to have fun, yet I traded laughter, ease and three-year-old merriment for my single-minded preoccupation to reach a pre-determined destination. My ego prevented me from delighting in the beauty of the moment as we bounced “higher and higher mummy” on the see-saw under the towering cedar trees with snow drifting down on the gentle breeze. The moment was picture perfect and my son knew it: he was fully present.
As we wandered home my thoughts loosened and the day’s lesson became clear. I’d focussed on the destination and missed the journey. With our modern lives being so centred on productivity, both at work and at home, I feel a perpetual internal and external pressure to have “done something” with my day, to report on my progress and cross items off my to-do list. But what if what we really need, every now and then, is just to do nothing? To hibernate. To slow down. To disconnect from the world and deepen our connection with our loved ones. To work on our emotional rather than our physical fitness.
To check in with each other’s souls and communicate with our children through our actions that they are our single most important priority in that very moment.
As we arrived home with the gift of five days of one-on-one time remaining, I took action by identifying and removing mama and son moment thieves. I deleted social media from my phone as I hid it out of sight in our bedroom, lit some candles and asked my son what he wanted to do. And so our week of cozy time began. We solved puzzles, danced in our living room and baked cookies. We popped corn and watched movies snuggled up together in front of our fire. We watched the snow fall and shovelled our driveway. We threw snowballs at one another, only to warm up inside as we chased each other around the house roaring like fire-breathing dragons. We read books at our local library, put on puppet shows and enjoyed salt-filled evening baths squirting one another with water pistols. We had so much fun, yet I very nearly missed it.
There is a time for pushing ourselves and our kids to explore and get outside our comfort zones. To fill our days and complete our to-do lists. But equally, there is a season for hygge, as the Danes call it, to slow down and to set our intention towards soothing our family’s souls. To others, it may appear that we’re doing nothing. That we’re wasting time.
But there is a restorative beauty in surrender. In going with the flow and abandoning the constant battle to get yet another thing done.
Next week our routine will return, as will daddy. Work will take over again and move from the fringes of my days and nights and I’ll look back at our week of nothing and smile.