Friday, May 15, 2009

Living in the moment, for the future

I tell myself at least once a day that I'm going to go through my days with my eyes open, that I will notice every moment, commit every one of my children's actions into my memory, that I will never ever look back and say that I should have done something more or something different. But this morning, with both the kids at school and the house empty save for me, I was filled with deep regret that I had asked D to stop talking yesterday. I could see all too clearly the day I would not be able to hear her voice no matter how much I craved it. I know it's not practical to live today's life with only the future in mind, but of late I can't seem to keep up with time and how quickly my babies' childhoods are passing right in front of my eyes.

Then I read this beautiful, evocative and powerful essay at The Things We Carried on war and mothers and children. I've reproduced here a portion of the essay that struck a chord, but please do read the entire thing (click on the link above).

My mind tumbles back to the days my miniature men played in the yard, their long skinny legs clad in summer shorts, and their little boy frames wearing brightly colored tee shirts. I wish I could walk to the back door, once more, slide open the screen, and yell in my too loud mom means business voice, "Chris, Eric, Michael, David, come in for dinner. Wash your hands, guys! Tiffanie come downstairs. After dinner we will have a scary movie The Birds and root beer floats." Their childish voices ring in my ears as I write.

If given the chance, I would surely kiss each of their faces as they came through the back door and down the stairs. Certainly, I would turn from the dishes, make eye contact with them, and capture the sweetness of their faces in my memory so much more than I did. I would allow their friends to stay for dinner. I would no longer require an immaculately clean house that has grown too quite, far too quiet, to wrap itself around me.

13 comments:

Nino's Mum said...

I din't have the guts to open the link and read it, suj, sorry, just the extract made me cry.
I can't fault your promise to yourself - it's something all mothers must try - but I know how difficult it is, and I wish you a lot of luck and a lot of patience. And a litte less of guilt.

Sylvia K said...

I guess it's one of the reasons that i'm so grateful that i had my four children late in my life, and because I had been told I could never have children, I recognized each one of them as a miracle. No, I wasn't always the perfect mother, but I did love and treasure every moment from those spent nursing them, to toughing out dealing with the many phases that all kids go through. It does require patience, luck, love, and the joy of having them in the first place. I wouldn't trade a moment -- even the difficult ones. Push the guilt aside and just open up to the love!

Anonymous said...

My daughter is just 16 months old and I already feel so guilty being tough with her when she is being mischievous. Every morning I wake up and kiss her chubby cheek and make a promise to myself that I should ignore her tantrums and love her with all I can. But at the end of the day unknowingly I would have screamed at her or punished her. I feel so guilty and feel like I'm the worst mother in the whole world :((

Rashmi

sujata said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful link..I feel this all the time, esp after a bout of scoldings, when they fall asleep..I regret not having kissed them goodnight. Am so cluless as to what i am doing with the two gifts God has given me..I just hope I am not messing up completely.

jinksy said...

Your last sentence made me glad that I was a 'drop everything for the kids' kind of Mum, when mine were small. My own mother had been the reverses - housework first, kids second - so I guess that accounted for my reversal! But the greatest compliment I ever got was hearing my grown up daughter telling someone she had no memories of ever being bored, whilst a young child in my care...

Kavi said...

Phew ! What a powerful post. And what a wonderful 'soak up' objective to have.

You have set the standards in a rather unique way.

The most important element is to be able to look through acitivities with intensity and see what is possible from whatever was done. And of that, you do wonderfully.

I feel that your children are lucky. For they seem to have won the parent lottery.

Aravind D Reddy said...

After reading the article I felt how harsh I was with my nephew restricting his actions. I am very happy that I came across this article.

Sands said...

I can so totally relate. After a tiring day at work, all I crave for is a few moments of quiet & get all worked up when the kids fight, scream and have a thousand things to say. But on a quiet day when I am by myself I want nothing more than their presence :)

rads said...

With the years now coming down to days before my oldest will soon leave home, this is a thought that's plaguing me more often that I'd like.
True I'll have my last to fill teh void a little longer, but none can replace the other's presence, now can they?

Sujatha said...

NM, you know, I am typically clear headed about these things, meaning I don't let them get to me, but I don't know what happened yesterday. I couldn't contain my sadness at the thought of not having the kids making a ton of noise.

Sylvia and Jinksy, thank you for being out there and making your experiences available to the rest of us.

Rashmi, awww. If there's one thing this posts says to you, I hope it is that we're all in the same boat. We cannot go through life without making our children sad or without disciplining them. They need to experience those things if only to be able to face life after childhood, out in the world. But if, in the process, we remain clear-headed about what we are doing and why we are doing it, then I don't think we'll feel as guilty. Right?

Sujata, I have those feelings of not having a clue sometimes too!

Kavi, thanks but I don't think I deserve such high praise. Perhaps when my kids have grown up and we are still in touch we can reassess the situation, eh?

Sujatha said...

Aravind, thank you for reading and leaving a comment. I'm glad you liked Meredith's essay.

Sands, I think the important thing is that you are aware of this. That, in my opinion is half the battle.

Rads, awww, hugs. We have plans to move whereever the kids are. Yup, we plan to stalk them for the rest of their lives! Heh.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

When our days become overwhelming, it is hard to remember these things. I'm thankful for the reminders.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Thanks so much for sharing with us so beautifully! And Meredith's post was fabulous...I'm glad you shared it with a whole new audience! I love your mother's heart! ~Janine XO

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