Time is a strange thing. There are times in my life when time seemed to stand still, like the night I spent in the hospital on the verge of heart failure while I was waiting for a surgery to save me. Then there are times when time seems to speed by so fast that it takes my breath away, like summer days spent traveling and snorkeling with my son.
Today has me emotional. I know I am not the only parent feeling this way today. Where I live, today is the first day of school. I walked my new 4th grader to school today. And now, after getting back home and reading a really touching post by one of my best friends from college on this, the day after her son turned 16, I sit in a puddle of tears.
I know that many people I know have had to take their kids to college and support them as they leave the nest. From where I am standing, that remains a reality difficult for me to fathom. Still others have new high school students today. I know that some friends may wish that they had a 4th grader today. But, as with everything, our experiences are all relative and what we have going on in our own lives is what really counts for us personally. Today, my mind is thrusting me back through the years. It’s funny how with every milestone, I get transported back into time when my son was a baby, newly born. It’s not in a way where I am wishing that he was a baby again, but more just wondering where the time since that day has gone. As normal as this whole back to school after summer thing is for humans, it always reminds me of the version of him, or incarnation, as my friend Michele put it, that I will experience and say goodbye to this year.
It’s the part of parenting that people don’t often talk about. The thing that you don’t even realize until you become a parent yourself. The part where you welcome and then say goodbye to all of the various incarnations of your child that you are so blessed to witness. As my friend Michele Rosa Gee wrote so beautifully today, “Birthdays bring a fascinating combination of emotions as a mother. Not only am I celebrating the person I see before me in this moment (which is what we normally do on people’s birthdays), but I’m nostalgic for the many incarnations of this boy I have seen through the past 16 years.” She goes onto say something else that really spoke to my Mom heart and that was “And I am amazed at the depth of sadness that I feel as I project into the future the growing separation that is natural between a mother and child.” I think this goes for birthdays, and other milestones like crawling, then walking, dressing themselves, and all the first days of school, and every other monumental occasion that we, as parents, get to experience during our child’s life.
For some of us, me included, this time is also dotted with a lot of time spent away from my child. My son’s Dad moved out of the house when my son was barely 4 years old. Prior to that time, the only time I spent without my son involved hospital stays and time spent in class during nursing school. I had never experienced a night away from my son, let alone several at a time. You would think that over time, this would become “normal” for a mother, the back and forth, the time spent without your child. But for me, it has never felt “normal”. For me, it has been the most difficult part of my divorce. As a Mom, I feel like I should be with my child all of the time. Maybe that’s my mind and ego speaking, but it feels like it’s my heart. After living this way for over 5 years, splitting the weeks and holidays with his Dad, it is not an easy thing for my Mom heart to get used to, especially when I hear someone say that they have rarely spent any time away from their child.
But I have come to trust mine and my son’s journeys. I know that regardless of the apparent shortcomings of this arrangement, it is better for all of us. I know that my son is being raised by two people who are much happier apart than they were together. As someone who experienced the contrast of parents who didn’t get along, but stayed together “for the kids”, I know that I would rather spend time away from my son than to have him grow up surrounded by tension and negativity. Because I believe that there are no coincidences in this life, I have to accept that reality not only in times that feel good and magical, but also in times that feel difficult and unnatural. I have seen what illness has done for me and my life, and I trust that when things feel hard, there is growth and expansion happening for me, and for my son. I hold onto that knowing that we are both always being taken care of and that we will get from this life exactly what we each need.
It has been really interesting to see how I feel during significant milestones now that I am more conscious that I have ever been before. As I learn to be more present during all the moments of my life, I feel more acutely aware when a milestone will be a first and a last at the same time. There is no little brother or sister to walk to the first day of 4th grade in a few years, so, I can’t even hold onto the illusion that there will be another day when I walk a 4th grader to class on the first day of school for the first and the last time. Just as I practice mindfulness in other parts of my life and know that this moment is all I ever truly have, today is the only day I have for this milestone.
As I move towards deeper levels of self-awareness and acceptance, and into deeper levels of consciousness, I am reminded daily of how difficult it can be to stay fully present with our kids. I think it’s one of the things that kids are meant to do, expand us in ways that don’t feel possible. For instance, when my son is trying to get a rise out of me by singing loudly in my face, and I am feeling the need for a stimulation time out, it is hard to stay present. My mind wonders and I wish for a future moment of peace. I think that it is generally easy to stay present with ourselves, how we’re feeling, and what we’re experiencing when we are alone. I meditate regardless, but when I am alone, I have the quiet and space to check in with my higher self frequently over the course of the day. But I know that the real test comes when I can keep the same peace and hold the same space for myself regardless of what is happening around me. I intuitively know it. It feels like one of the big keys of life. I witnessed this as a Registered Nurse in the hospital. When I started out, I felt like I needed a quiet place with no distractions while I charted everything about my patients into a computer. The more seasoned nurses laughed at that requirement, because they had already learned that kind of peace and quiet did not exist within that environment. After over 5 years of working in the hospital, all I needed to get my charting done was a working computer. I became so good at focusing on what I was doing at the computer even with distractions all around me, that at times I wouldn’t hear another nurse ask me a question.
It’s all about being able to tune out the distractions from our environment, the people around us, and our own minds so that we are able to stay present and at peace during anything that shows up in our lives. When we realize how important our own internal peace is, and we learn how to achieve and maintain it through even the most trying of times, we unlock the key to happiness in our lives. Of course, this doesn’t mean ignoring our feelings, but it does mean realizing that each moment has something worth experiencing. Today, I was really present in the experience of walking my son to his first day of 4th grade, which is why I feel so emotional about it. Everything that has happened in my life has cumulatively led me to exactly where I am right now, and to how I am feeling right now.
With each milestone, I am reminded of the imperative need for me to get out of my head, so that I can soak up the fleeting moments I have with my growing son. I am reminded of all of the past moments that will never exist again and the years flash on a screen in my head, birth, 1-year-old, 2 years old, 3 years old, 4 years old, 5 years old, 6 years old, 7 years old, 8 years old, 9 years old. I think part of it is that we equate parenting with so many tasks: the meals, the snacks, the trips to school and back again, the extracurricular activities, the homework, the play dates, the baths, and the bedtimes. Sometimes we humans go on autopilot, and do more than be. We quickly seek to accomplish all the tasks as efficiently as we can, zooming around left and right. But, as we do this, and we turn life into a series of tasks and activities, we sometimes forget to slow down and soak in the moments that truly define our lives.
As I become more conscious and therefore more present in my life, I feel these milestones all the more strongly, because I am very aware of the preciousness of each moment with my son. If being a Mom and experiencing this as reality through the powerful manifestation of a son that grows and changes with each passing day doesn’t wake me up to only living in the present moment, I don’t know what will. It can be a somewhat painful process, being a Mom and watching your son grow and change, grow and change, but wow, what a wonderful ride. Right?! Isn’t it beautiful that etched within each of our children is the powerful lesson that NOW is the only moment we have with each other?
We can’t relive a moment that has passed, so we must soak in every moment we have, so that we live with no regret in our hearts, and more joy in our lives!
Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please like and share it! Much love.
Do you need uplifted and reminded of how wonderful it is to be alive today? If so, listen to Brett Dennen’s song “Blessed” HERE