Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Taking Time to Take Time

I loved when I had more time to blog. I felt like I was hyper aware of things in life and had time to reflect on the little things that happened every day. Let's be honest...I loved not working and had tons of time on my hands. I had time to notice the beauty of the flowers popping up in my garden rather than focusing on the sprouting weeds. I had time to focus 100% of my attention on my kids when we talked rather than listen, make dinner, and sign quizzes and tests all at the same time. The reality is that oftentimes the stuff that needs to get done outweighs the stuff you would like to spend your time on. A few weeks ago, we went away to Grand Cayman with the kids for April vacation and as great as the trip was, the real gift was that we found ourselves having the opportunity to spend the time appreciating those little moments. I think one of the main things that allowed us to take advantage of this time was that we were completely unplugged. I don't mean that we checked email just a few times a day and only texted here and there. I mean complete disconnection. We turned our phones off to avoid international roaming charges and left them in the room every day. The most important people we needed to talk to were all together. No one half listened while they texted. No one took a call in the middle of a conversation. My guess is we don't realize how much we only half listen, half focus, and even miss conversations and verbal cues because we are too busy paying attention to our cell phones, iPads, iPods, and computers. I can't remember the four of us talking or laughing as much as we did every day that week. Right before we left, my pre-teens were being just that. They were giving me one word answers to my questions, coping attitudes over having to do chores, and were snubbing our affections. They were just acting their age but it wasn't the relationship we wanted to have with them. Getting them out of their every day environment, without their peers who are acting the same way, brought their real personalities back out. We had conversations...without eye rolls. Their sense of humor returned and they were even able to laugh at themselves again. And they were affectionate again. You know I would love to keep them in their little kid bubbles for life and have them need their Mama like little baby birds. But I know those days are changing. When the idea of a simple hug from a parent makes a child want to run from a building like their hair is on fire, it's a sign to take them out of their current environment. They want to grow up and be independent but they are also just kids too. The struggle for them, as it was for all of us, is tough. I think that getting away, really away, gives kids the downtime to just be kids again. I find myself sliding back into bad habits and saying no to things because I am too busy and need to get things done. Not all the time, but oftentimes that is the case. Having no schedule other than deciding which beach to go to doesn't allow you the opportunity to say no to things you might otherwise pass up. For me, this was snorkeling. I love the beach but I'll be honest, I don't want to see what is swimming around me. I like to imagine the water completely empty and clean...not filled with gigantic, potentially deadly fish. On our first day at the beach, Tim and the kids immediately raced into the water with their masks and snorkels. I followed behind them and stood knee deep surveying the landscape. Mimi's snorkeled face popped up out of the water and she said "Mom, you will not believe what is swimming at your feet!" Internally I was screaming "WHAT?!" but silently I put my mask on and peeked in the water. There were about 20 fish swimming around my feet. I was determined not to show the kids that I was freaking out because I was trying to be a good role model but inside I was screaming as though a great white shark had just ripped my leg off. For the rest of the vacation, I let them lead and I snorkeled behind them so they didn't see me freaking out at every little fish that swam by. All I could hear was myself breathing heavy. I was glad they couldn't hear me. At one point, there were about 20 fish trailing behind them and I thought "If they only looked behind them and could see what was following them...." and then I realized that the same thing was probably happening to me. I had visions of a killer fish rubbing his hands together getting ready to take a bite out of me. Eventually I relaxed. We were basically swimming in a giant aquarium every day. Not only were the colors and types of the fish amazing, but seeing the kids' excitement at every turn was well worth it. I was able to focus on their happiness rather than my own fears and see the world through their eyes. Sometimes life gets in the way and we forget to just enjoy these little moments. I think this is one of the main reasons I love camping so much. We give ourselves unspoken permission to put our electronics away and enjoy being outside. We spend time playing games, talking, and enjoying each other's company. The kids are free to just be kids. They play together more, fight less, and are creative in how they spend their time. And as parents we are able to enjoy these fleeting moments with them as they speed from childhood to becoming the people they are growing into.

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