When I was five years old, my parents and I went to the beach for a weekend of fun in the sun. We built sand castles, splashed in the waves and went for long walks in search of the perfect seashell. As we headed back toward our umbrella and blanket after one particular walk, I ran ahead of my parents – wind in my hair, sand between my toes and bathing suit riding up just enough to bear a striking resemblance to the Coppertone baby. My mom yelled after me to stop and head back in their direction. As I approached the spot where my mom was standing, she pointed down at a beautiful pink seashell and said to me “if you’re always running ahead, you won’t have time to see what you’re missing.”
Amen, mama. You speak the truth. That moment is frozen (cue the chorus to “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” here – you’re welcome) in time for me and her words often echo through my mind (as do other words she’s told me, but these are the ones that stand out). As I run through daily life – from the mad dash out the door each morning, to the nightly question of “what’s for dinner,” to the inevitable bedtime battle, I try to remember what my mom (in her infinite wisdom) said to me that day. “If you’re always running ahead, you won’t have time to see what you’re missing.” In other words, stop and smell the roses.
Parenthood is a blur. People tell me all the time that “it goes too fast,” and “enjoy it now because they’ll grow up in an instant.” I used to think these were just a bunch of clichés old ladies said in the grocery store to make conversation, but now I realize that they’re right. Sure, my kids are still little and I have years of dashing out the door in the morning and struggling to come up with a nutritious dinner plan that my kids will actually eat (without me having to concoct some elaborate story about how broccoli comes from an enchanted forest and why grilled chicken is magical). But the truth is, if my kids grow up as quickly as the last three years have gone, it’ll be their Bat Mitzvahs, high school graduations and weddings before I know it (cue the sounds of a cash register here).
If we’re always running ahead, we won’t have time to see what we’re missing. We won’t have time to see our babies develop a new sense of self (and the world) that comes with learning to walk. We’ll miss our young children taking risks and developing confidence each time they pick themselves up after falling down. We won’t cherish the early (even the early, early) morning snuggles that come after a nightmare or the giggles that come from an impromptu family dance party in the living room before bed.
Life might be short, but the days are long and the opportunities to appreciate the little moments are great. Each day I try to remind myself of this, and try to relish in the memories that are being formed in a seemingly simple moment. These are the moments that matter, and these are the moments I don’t want to miss because I was running too quickly to appreciate them.