Friday, February 13, 2009

The good.... what else is there?

I catch people giving me “the look” when I am out and about with my husband and girls. The look is usually given by older ladies, but I’ve seen it on faces of all kinds of people; it involves a tilt of the head, a softness in the eyes, and a wistful expression. The person will sometimes say things like, “They grow up so fast,” or “Time flies,” and “I remember my children at this age like it was yesterday.” This week a man in line at the grocery store said, “Man, I remember when my kids were that age. It could be crazy sometimes, but they sure were fun. All five of them!” He had long white hair and a frizzy beard and was dressed in orange hip-waders; probably a hardworking fisherman since we were at the Oregon Coast (the fishy smell he wore helped my stereotype as well). One day his little ones were clamoring for his attention and now he said they don’t want to be seen with him, “Dad’s not cool, you know.”

I tend to think people are delusional when they give me “the look” and say, “Enjoy this time.” I smile and nod and am polite, but all the while I wonder where the real memories went. Seriously, did they forget the ankle biting, and interruptions, and spilled milk for the 4th meal in a row? Do they not remember getting up multiple times a night to check a baby’s cry or the tantrums that a toddler has in public? It’s great that they think so fantastically of their children’s younger days, but they are not based in reality. They can’t be.

Tuesday we went to the beach for 2 nights. It was a long week leading up to it and a month’s worth of sickness were behind us. I imagined walks on the beach, calm play, peaceful naps and sleeping late at our 2 bedroom resort accommodations. My first mistake was adding “sleep,” “calm” and “peaceful” to the picture of my expectations. The girls were lively as usual and good parenting doesn’t get to take a vacation. I found myself longing for a quiet time away with just my husband. I tried to think of a way to get a baby-sitter for a few days so I could have my sleep, calm, and peace (and my husband all to myself). Desiring to be away from my chaotic children put me a bad mood.

We ate out at my favorite restaurant and I felt the tension and irritation rising. Then I saw a women across the isle give our family “the look.” She was about my mom’s age with a man who I assume was her husband. I read enough emotion on her face to know that she was remembering perfect days with little children and she missed it, even though she was alone with her husband. In that instant, I was given a gift of seeing my family through her eyes. I looked at my handsome husband, the amazing father to my children. I smiled at him, grateful for the love I saw reflecting back at me in his perfect blue eyes. My children weren’t being bad really, just being children and I saw how precious they were. Mandy was sucking water from the plastic cup lid, forgetting the straw. She was getting pretty wet, but she was dressed cute and flashed me the hugest grin at her accomplishment of getting water out of the cup. Emma, in all her spirited fashion style was wearing a skirt and pants and her purple puffy coat. She colored her fish themed coloring paper with the concentration of Michael Angelo. I felt like the luckiest woman in the world. I am sure my change in attitude effected the rest of our time there. 

I resolved after that to try to view my family as that stranger saw us. I would remember the good, deal with the bad and then forget about it. I want to remember the snuggles, the giggles, the happiest and the funniest moments, not the ankle biting and all that other stuff. I look forward to being that lady in the grocery store who says to a young mom with a screaming toddler, “They don’t stay this age for long. Enjoy them while they last.” When I look back on these days, I want to be delusional. And it will be my right, as I see it.

We went swimming 3 times, watched cartoons, tried to convince Mandy to eat something other than fish crackers, Emma slept in 2 different beds for the 2 nights we were there, and I watched my fill of HGTV. It was a really beautiful time. 


Dan & Hillary and little Russell said...

Very nice post:-) Sorry you can't visit the coast when it is sunnier and warmer. These times will pass all too quickly...

Sara said...

Glad you were able to give yourself an attitude/outlook change and enjoy your mini-vacation even with whining/sleep-refusing children!

Michal said...

sorry i haven't been by lately. i've been too consumed with my little project to help evan win that second date!

i try to remind myself that i'll look back on these days with longing. i'm sure it's not that people miss the tantrums and never getting a good night's sleep--it's just that when this time is gone, we learn to value the precious moments more.

some days (it should be every day), i ask god in my prayers to help me see my children through his eyes. it makes such a difference in how easily i get irritated with them. and i find, as you did with your vacation, that my attitude and perspective makes all the difference in the whole family's experience.

thanks for sharing.:)