I have a tendency to rush. Not rush my work per say, but to feel burdened by the sense of what I need to accomplish, then flap around trying to complete everything faster and more efficiently. I’m a multi-tasker to the extreme and for the most part I’m quite highly functioning. The thing is, when I really stop to consider my behavior – which is rare, because who has the time to do that? – I realize that I’m not necessarily enjoying myself. For all my efficiency I’m stretched a bit thin and I’m becoming aware that I often miss moments thinking about, or dealing with, something else. I like completing tasks. I like checking things off my list. But for all the things I do, my list is never shorter. There’s always something else to add, handle or deal with. Maybe it’s the life of a mother, or a woman, or just the general burden of adulthood. I’m just not sure it’s the best way to live.
The other day I burned my mouth on my lunch. I’d been writing while Loch was at school and I needed a break. I get abnormally excited about eating when I need to relax, and I decided that I would make a boboli – a small, pre-made pizza crust that you build on. It’s not particularly good for you but it’s completely delicious. I added sauce, pineapple, cheese, Italian seasoning and garlic salt, then tidied the kitchen and checked my email while it cooked. . When it was done I found myself itching to get back to work. Loch would be home in 2 1/2 hours and I had so much more to do before my work space became the playroom again. So, instead of waiting for the pizza that had just come out of a 450 degree oven to cool, I tried to eat it immediately and, shocker, I fried the skin on the top of my palate to a crisp. I wish I could say this was a rare experience, but it’s not. It happens all the time. It’s like I just don’t have the time to wait. It might hurt me? Who cares! Must eat now! Must get back to…whatever it is I’m doing!
Must. Not. Waste. Time.
There aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things we want to do. Not enough time to accomplish all we hope to accomplish. And when you have kids – or in my case, kid – there are so few hours in the day that belong to you, that you don’t want to waste a second of the ones you have. I remember when Loch started school and people kept saying, “It must be so nice to have 3 hours to yourself every morning.” It was easier just to say yes. People aren’t really interested in the truth, just as, for the most part, people aren’t really asking how you are when they say “how are you?” The truth is, by the time you drop off your kid and get out of there and then leave again to be on time to pick them up, you have 2 hours if you’re lucky, and most of that time is occupied racing around getting all those things done that are easier without a child.
Note to store owners: 10 & 11am openings are very annoying. People are up and out of the house. We’d love to come by and get that thing done, but you’re sleeping in, so thanks for nothin’.
Technology these days also forces us to be more efficient. You can’t get away with saying, “I didn’t get your message” or “I haven’t had time to check my email” now that we live in a world of smart phones. We have to be up on everything at all times. It’s so immediate. I called. I texted. What’s your answer? I’ve had to actively work to stop checking my emails/texts in the car. I have to constantly remind myself that it can wait. That if I crash I’ll feel pretty stupid that it’s because I was checking my grocery list or texting that I was running 5 minutes late.
We were at Disneyland recently and stayed overnight at the Disneyland Hotel (my mother-in-law wisely bought into the Disney Vacation Club a million years ago and now has a paid off investment that allows her children to enjoy her generosity). We woke up early for Magic Mornings which is when Disneyland opens an hour early for hotel guests so they can enjoy the park before the general public. The thing is, Magic Mornings are 7-8am, which means you have to be up really early to truly take advantage of it. We set our alarms and roused our child from sleep because we figured it just made sense to get on as many rides as possible before the weekend crowds made every line an hour plus. We hustled out of the room, decided to forgo breakfast till later – I’d packed granola bars and juice – and started booking it for the entrance. We considered taking the monorail but didn’t want to waste 15-20 minutes waiting for it to arrive. It was already 7:15 and we were late!! As we half walked, half ran through Downtown Disney, Loch kept wanting to stop. He wanted to look at a store window, throw a wish in the fountain, check out the car kiosk or buy a balloon. We kept saying things like, “no, we can’t, we gotta go, let’s hurry, come on”. At one point Sean put Loch on his shoulders and started running. As I was trying to keep up – my PH doesn’t jog – I saw it. Watching the back of my husband weaving in and out of people, my child bobbing on his shoulders still trying to point things out, I saw our mistake.
Why were we rushing? Weren’t we here so our son could have a good time? Wasn’t whole point to be together as a family and enjoy the magic of the park? Were we even doing that? Currently, my family was 50 feet ahead of me, my son wanted to see things he couldn’t because we had a preconceived notion of what he’d enjoy more, and we were on our way to the park to run from ride to ride. We’d played this game a lot before Loch was born. Deciding our plan of attack for the next ride while “enjoying” the current one. Already onto the next thing. It made little sense then, but now that Loch was with us, that kind of behavior was ridiculous. I called out for Sean to stop. He did immediately, apologizing, thinking he was being insensitive to my physical limitations, but when I caught up I explained the real reason.
We had to change our attitude. Who cares if we didn’t get on all the rides? The goal was to enjoy the day together as a family. If Loch wanted to stop and look at something. We’d stop. If we were hungry, we’d eat. We’d have fun without trying to force ourselves to fit in “the most fun possible”. With that in mind, it turned into a great day. We did ride a couple things before the park opened, but we also stopped for a hour to do the character breakfast that Loch loves, enjoyed the riverboat that goes no where fast, and took the time to look at all the toys in all the stores. We just chilled, and were better off for it. When you’ve paid – or traveled – to go to a special place, there’s a tendency to try and pack in your fun, and packing is rarely a good time. We’re trying to remember that sometimes looking at the ducks can be just as rewarding as a big ride…and frankly, it comes with less of a wait.
This idea of slowing down, of enjoying where you are – instead of looking to the next thing or, in my case, thinking of the next thing – is something I have to keep reminding myself of and then reinforcing with my behavior. A couple weeks ago Sean was going to be away all weekend. He was shooting a trailer for a movie looking for financing on Saturday from 5:30am – 9pm and then working the next day at the Hockey Playoffs from 8:30am – 5:30pm. I knew the weekend was just going to be Loch and me and I wanted us to have a good time. I’ve been working a lot lately and have been missing our day to day routine, so I wanted to be sure he knew he had my undivided attention. I decided not to check my email/phone all day, to accept I wasn’t going to get anything “accomplished”, and to avoid multitasking altogether to just “be” with him. As a mom who’s also trying to work – I hesitate to call myself a ‘working mom’ since I don’t leave the house for my job, but point in fact that’s what I am – this is a hard thing to do. There’s always so many things that need my attention that dedicated one on one time with my child often takes a back seat. In my case, I spend so much time with Loch that I sometimes think that counts, but when I look closely, it’s really more quantity than quality. Sure we talk constantly and have great fun singing, dancing and telling stories, but it’s usually when I’m taking him to and from school/sports classes/lessons or dragging him around doing errands. By the time we get home and he wants to PLAY with me, I’m often too busy making dinner, returning emails, doing the laundry, cleaning the house and, if I was being completely honest I’d say, at that point I’m also craving some quiet time and don’t always have it in me to get down on the floor and play.
That weekend, however, was different. I made the decision to give Loch all my time. It’s not always possible, but for these two days it was, and I was doing it. We went to his t-ball game Saturday morning where I coached and Loch did the best he’s ever done. He even seemed kind of into which was a real treat. We went grocery shopping to pick up all the fixings for a picnic, then took our lunch to Travel Town – an outdoor train museum in LA that Loch loves – to eat and climb and play out full adventures on all the trains. We took imaginary trips to multiple lands, watched the model trains puff through their tunnels, played with an adorable one year old we met, and talked about all the old cars and trucks they have on display. He didn’t even want to take the train ride around the park. He was just happy playing and hanging out with his mom without having to compete with her computer or phone.
When we got home we set up the kiddie pool and Slip n’ Slide and had a play date with a friend he hadn’t seen in forever. Loch and his friend (and her little brother) frolicked for two hours and we finished off the visit with a trip to the ice cream store. Though I ate my dinner standing up in the kitchen that night, I was out playing with him right after. We played board games as we got ready for bed and finished the day snuggled up under his train sheets reading “Good Night Moon” (a book we haven’t’ read for years but reminds us both of when he was little). I read it twice.
What I noticed at the end of that day, other than it had been marvelous and both of us were happy, was that I was much less exhausted than I usually am. I was on a high. I write all the time about being here for my child, wanting to be with him and share his life, but even though I spend so much time with him, I’m often scattered while doing it. Having a day – and as it turned out, a weekend – Sunday found us strawberry picking on a farm – where I could commit all my time to him, where I could put everything else aside for a moment and just do what he wanted to do, where I made plans but followed his lead, was a real gift for both of us.
I know it’s impossible to do this every day but I’ve decided to try and implement the concept of dedicated time whenever I can. It’s so much easier to enjoy playing when you don’t feel you should be doing something else. So much easier to commit to young person energy when you aren’t dealing with old person productivity. Sure, as adults we need to accomplish things. We aren’t always available to play High Ho Cherry Oh for the 10th time, and quite frankly we don’t always want to. But as parents, heck as people, we have to realize that life is not all about work. It’s not all about getting to the finish line or getting on as many rides as possible from 7-8am. It’s about stopping to see the fountain or just being with the people we love in the moment. Sharing space. Being aware. Really listening. Those are the things that connect us, fulfill us. It’s that kind of time, when we’re slower and more conscious, that give us our greatest moments. It’s probably because in slowing down we become mindful enough to notice when significant things occur, and it’s those significant things that give us the strength to rejoin the race and accomplish our tasks. At the end of the day if you miss those moments, I think you’re missing the point.
And I hate missing the point.