This year, our snow days are being used to honor the beauty of May. We get to celebrate our freakishly warm winter with bike helmets and sunscreen since we didn’t need to use those days waiting for the plows to come around. My six year-old learned how to ride a two-wheeler this week, so we’re heeding the siren’s call of the rail trail. As I push the toddler in the stroller, my big girl stays close. She wobbles as she tries to match my walking pace because, unlike the evening before when she gleefully peddled ahead, she seems to need to be in my orbit right now.
There’s a sweet jolt when I realize “this is one of the perfect moments.” I sense I’m reliving a scene from thirty years ago. It’s a different setting and there are new characters in the starring roles, but here I am hoping one daughter will fall asleep and praying the other doesn’t fall off her bike, just as my mother would have done.
There’s a thread through time, braiding us together. Our connection will never snap, even if my mother and my daughters will never walk the same trail together. I feel my own first-grade memories entwine with this moment, and my pace slows with the weight of my gratitude.
Of course, there’s one vital element that separates this particular idyllic scene from what my mother might have experienced. It’s not 1986. It’s 2016. This mama has an earbud plugged into her head and occasionally has to say “wait, what did you say?” as she fumbles with the pause button.
I’m not even sure why I think I need the extra stimulation. My phone is on my hip (the better to count my steps) and it seemed like a good idea to multitask and keep up with the “you must listen to this!” recommendations from colleagues.
Of course, I am only able to open up to the grace of my children’s magic and my mother’s blessing when I stuff the wires in the stroller and decide to be present. I’m not surprised that being there with my girls is more fulfilling than one more grown up filling my mind with more stuff to do and consider and change.
If I’d still been walking in two worlds, in this perfect spring morning as well as someone’s basement recording studio, I can’t imagine I have exuded the welcoming, present energy that invited my daughter to say, “Mom? I have a boyfriend…”
I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to take a breath and respond with a few gentle, open-hearted questions if I were half listening to something else. I am sure I would have squawked “what!?!” and crushed the moment flat.
But this isn't a post by a saintly iPhone free mother
Thing is, this experience probably isn't going to change my behavior - at least not completely. There will be many more bike riding/ stroller pushing outings this year and I am sure I’ll take headphones with us most of the time.
I want to be honest with myself as much as I want to be present with my kids. That means I need to balance the feeding of my mind with the caring for my children. It means reflecting on my own needs and those of my family, making conscious choices, and practicing compassion through it all.
It also means getting the support where I can get it. If there isn't a loving grandmother or a village of other moms around to help us deal with the tough moments (ahem, MY FIRST GRADER SAYS SHE HAS A BOYFRIEND), the advice and comfort may need to come through that nice recorded voice from my iPhone.
An important note: that podcast I was listening to was Laura Reagan’s Therapy Chat. Do check out this brilliant, vulnerable episode called Worthiness, Perfectionism, and Self Compassion when the moment is right for you.