Pressing Pause as We Usher in 2018

I have terrible feet. The aftermath of ICU neuropathy, scleroderma, a funky limp, and lack of natural padding make walking without my super cool orthopedic shoes nearly impossible. I rarely enjoy the luxury of walking barefoot except when I stroll along the beach. Miraculously, the soft wet sand perfectly contours my curled toes and cushions my steps, allowing for pain-free barefoot walks along the shore. Foamy waves lapping up against my bare skin is pure decadence.  

There are few things in life I enjoy more than a walk along the ocean. I do my best thinking on these walks and become uncharacteristically philosophical. Deep thoughts ripple through my mind as I marvel that the waves dancing over my feet may have originated half-way across the world. Who else has been touched by the same water that now soothes the needles that plague my soles?

Ocean waves are one of the most powerful natural phenomena on earth, so I guess it’s not surprising that I generate intense pearls of wisdom on my ocean walks. I sift through my limited scientific knowledge and impress myself with the tiny nuggets I remember from elementary school. Ocean tides are caused by the gravitational forces between the earth, sun, and moon…..The moon has a greater influence on the tide because it is so much closer to earth than the sun…..

Last week, I took several glorious walks on the Atlantic shore while on vacation in Pompano Beach, Florida. My husband booked us a great place with breathtaking ocean views steps from the beach. The weather was absolutely perfect. We basked in the sunny, mid-eighties temperatures and didn’t see a single raindrop on our entire trip. My son and daughter are finally at the age where they happily occupy themselves. For the first time in 14 years, we gave our kids keys to the hotel and let them to roam from the beach, pool, and room independently. This newfound freedom allowed my husband and me to sit in our beach cabana flip-flopping between our favorite pass times; reading, chatting, and napping. I don’t think I could have asked for a more perfect vacation.

And yet, I found my mind working overtime during my solemn walks along the ocean. My thoughts turned to past vacations with my kids. I recalled how annoying it was to travel with car seats, strollers, and diaper bags. Years of whining, complaining, missed nap crabbiness, and hunger-induced meltdowns replayed in my mind. I’m so glad my kids are older now and we can finally have a relaxing vacation.

Just as that thought escaped me, I spotted her running. A few feet away a sweet little girl with a curly halo caught my attention. Her bulky swim diaper sagged beneath her wet bathing suit as her chubby little legs waddled past me, leaving tiny footprints stamped in the sand. The little girl could have been my daughter’s stunt double when she was a toddler.

Pangs of nostalgia pierced my heart. The toddler disappeared from my view as the ocean waves washed away her footprints.

Bittersweet thoughts tumbled through my soul. My kids will never be little like that again. I will never scoop them up and shower them with kisses as I cradle them in my arms. I will never rock them to sleep, their precious little heads nestled in the crook of my neck. I will never smell their sweet little baby smells. I will never see them take their first steps again. They have both spent more years living under my roof than they have left to spend (unless of course they move back in with us as unemployed college graduates).

My kids are getting older and it’s wonderful and terrifying to witness. I suppose that’s what’s at the core of motherhood. All mothers start out as the moon. From conception, we have the greatest influence on their tides. Our tug is the strongest, and our babies are literally tethered to us as they grow inside our womb.

From the moment they’re born, we slowly transition from being the moon to the sun. With every milestone, we grow farther and farther from them. Our influence wanes and the tug of others take our place. This is the goal. This is what we strive for, and yet, it’s so damn painful.

Do I want to go back to changing diapers, wiping green runny snot, and pacing the floor all night bouncing a screaming toddler with a raging ear infection? Hell to the no. And yet, I regret that in the thick of those stress ridden moments (years?) I didn’t press pause long enough to revel in the precise phase of life my child was experiencing. Like the pounding waves that just keep washing ashore, so are the days, weeks, months and years of motherhood (yikes, that sounds a lot like the opening to Days of Our Lives). I can’t stop the waves from rolling in any more than I can stop my kids from growing up.

Looking back though, I wish I hadn’t spent so much time and energy worrying about the next steps. Whether it was sleeping through the night, teething, potty-training, removing the training wheels……. I didn’t stop often enough to bask in the moment.

Typical of my tendency to plan ahead, I have a box of 100 unopened color coordinated file folders sitting on my desk as I write this. My resolution was to once and for all organize my home office. I was going to usher in 2018 with the most anal-retentive filing system this planet has ever seen!

As 2017 draws to a close, I’m changing my new year’s resolution. Instead, of a clean office, I’m going to try to press pause more. Like barefoot walks on the beach, time with my kids is rare and fleeting. I’m not talking about time spent in the car transporting them from place to place. I’m talking about trying to expend less energy worrying about the next steps and more time being present in the moment. I’ve got to admit, this is not my strong suit. It would be far easier for me to organize my files. I’m a planner by nature. Turning off looming thoughts of driver’s education, summer jobs, college, Bat-Mitzvah planning, and junior high girl drama, will take Herculean effort.

Maybe I’m not wired for turning off these deliberations, but I resolve that in 2018 I will try to quiet them. Motherhood is one hell of a ride. I know I’m no longer the moon in my children’s sky, and I shouldn’t be. Nonetheless, they will always be the sun, the moon, and the stars in mine.

Disclaimers:

  1. I didn’t really remember those “elementary school” scientific facts about ocean waves and tides- I had to Google them.
  2. I realize this piece is a stereotypical “first-world problems” brand of barfy. I am beyond grateful to have the resources to go on vacations, be raising two children whom I expect will graduate college, and be blessed with the luxury of reflection. Many parents don’t have time to press pause as they struggle to scrape together enough money to make ends meet and provide their children with basic necessities. My other resolution this year is to do more with my kids for the families I just described.

 

17 Comments »

  1. Well said Lisa and so true.  Babyhood and early childhood are physically taxing, and the mid years mentally exhausting.   Now you have the time and ability to spend quality time with the before life changes forever.  Please enjoy your children and your life, Lisa.  Love, Mom 

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  2. Beautifully said, Lisa. All too relatable.
    Here’s to moving into the next year while giving attention and thanks to those that came before. All part of the journey.

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  3. I am sorry to tell you it happens again with grand children.
    I begged them not to grow.
    As one grandson said to me
    “Nani, I took the brick off my head.” They are all taller than me. One is graduating high school. I can’t explain, but you get almost closer with the grandkids. Yes you watch them carefully but without the worry of everything raising them, you have more time just to enjoy them. Just another stage of life.

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  4. Happy New Year, Lisa! You’re columns always make me laugh out loud! I totally relate to your “motherhood column.” And…I am about 15 years ahead of you. The kids have left the nest, went to college never to return (I am happy to report😉), both in successful meaningful careers, and in relationships. I KNOW I am in the background and that is the way it should be now..but as you say…it ain’t easy, but like you, “There go I, by the grace of G-d.” And I have no idea who said that! Happy New Year!

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  5. Thanks for the reminders, even though I am farther along in my life (and child rearing) than you are… It still can apply to my future!
    Happy New Year!

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  6. Oh Lisa, although you are a generation younger than I am, I feel that we are sisters in this romp through life. You so beautifully express the ache of motherhood. It’s been the most influential part of my life, far more important to my sense of self than my career ever was. Thank you for reminding me.

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