The Next Best Thing
I got a rare chance to go swimming with my two-year-old son Levi the other day. With his twin brothers around and a big sister, he doesn't get a lot of one-on-one time with mommy. Knowing this, I tried to be as silly and fun as possible letting him lead the way. We jumped into the pool together pretending we were dunking basketballs like his hero Michael Jordan. His big brown eyes and wide smile lit up when I splashed him and let him push me under. It was some of the most fun I've had with one of my kids recently.
Then as we were playing I caught myself saying, "Won't it be SO fun when we're swimming in a lake on our trip to Minnesota?!"
That sounds perfectly innocent, but I stopped myself midway.
I say these sorts of statements all the time. "Won't it be fun when your cousin gets here? Won't it be fun when it's Christmas? Won't it be fun when you're old enough to (insert activity here)??" The more we talk about future events, the more our kids' and our anticipation builds.
But what made me stop was that I find myself living in this space all the time. I'm always dreaming of the next event or milestone. I speak to my children in a language of the NEXT BEST THING, never fully experiencing or appreciating the now. As Levi looked at me with all of his attention and love, eager to enjoy our time together that we so rarely get, I realized I don't want him thinking that I don't view this moment as enough.
Part of my problem is that I'm a dreamer. I always have been. I constantly think of the places I want to go, the next picture I want to take, what classes I want to enroll my kids in, who will teach them things that I don't know, how glorious life will be when I don't have to change another diaper (seriously), and the list goes on and on.
While I don't think any of those thoughts are inherently bad, I do believe it's harmful to let them guide the internal dialogue in my head. If someone offered me a transcription of my thoughts and words, I wonder what percentage would be NEXT BEST THING talk. I bet it would be up around 80%.
"Won't it be nice when some of them are in school? Won't it be great when Levi can wash his own hands? Won't it be dreamy when they can make their own breakfast and I can sleep in?"
Again, I don't think those thoughts are bad and sometimes they help me get through the hard days. But I don't want to be a future-focused mom and wish their childhood away. I want to be a here-and-now mom. Because someday (God-willing) they'll be old and I'll be really old and most of my time will be up. I'm sure at that point, what I'll desire more than anything is to have a conversation with my adult child on the phone without feeling like they're thinking of the next thing on their to-do list. And instead of working that extra hour on the weekend so they can achieve a promotion, I'll secretly be hoping that they play cards with me in the nursing home, and not think of it as a burden.
Of course I'm sure I'll understand their perspective too. They will be in a phase of life that demands a lot of time and energy. A phase of life when they think their time and energy is limitless.
I know this because it's how I live life right now. As a parent with babies and toddlers, it's hard to stay present when part of my job is to instruct my children on how to achieve the next life skill. But so often, instead of resting in the process, I'm trying my hardest to race towards the end result. I honestly don't know how to find a balance yet. That mythical place where I can be perfectly present but also hopeful of a bright future.
I do think one way to achieve harmony between my dreams and my current situation is by reducing the amount of "won't it be fun when" language that I speak to my family.
I should really be saying and thinking "isn't this fun!" NOW.
I know it's ok to dream, and I would love for my children to dream big. But I also pray that they can look at whatever their reality is and find the dreaminess of it and the blessing in it. We are not guaranteed the next minute of this life. I believe every second we get is a gift from God. He's keeping the planets in orbit and the sun burning for whatever reason and since we have no power to control any of it, we need to treasure the time we get.
This way of thinking is a work in progress for me. I'm starting to identify those thoughts and statements and intentionally change them, hoping they naturally change down the road.
So the next time I get a chance to swim with my little Levi, I can genuinely look him in the eyes and say with all sincerity, "THIS is so fun." And he'll feel in his heart that I truly mean it.
Since I love pairing images with words, I took some pictures over the past couple of days that reflect "resting in the process" for me. Whether it's a developmental stage or waiting for the season to change (I am not used to these southern summers ya'll), these are some of the moments I want to cherish now.
So here's an attempt to capture them in all their glory. All you moms (or dads, aunts, grandmas, nannies, whatever) with cameras, I challenge you to do the same this week. Take some images of moments that sometimes make you think "won't it be nice when we're done with this?" I'd love to see what you shoot on Instagram by using the hashtag - #mickspicschallenge
Mark sure to rest in it and appreciate it. Whatever it is, was at one point, the NEXT BEST THING.