Some Sunday evenings you abandon the healthy dinner you planned and the back-to-school routine you recently established. You ignore your anxiety about having outfits picked out the night before and lunches packed in the fridge ready to go. Instead, you simply watch your children play. You breath and listen and don’t think of the week ahead. You only think of this one beautiful moment unfolding right in front of you . You close your eyes and promise you will do this more often.
I initially said no when my husband suggested a last-minute fishing trip to the river on Sunday night. It was 5:30. We hadn’t eaten dinner, the kids hadn’t cleaned their rooms, the kitchen was a disaster, and I needed to practice sight words with my son. However, as soon as these thoughts raced through my mind, I dismissed them and realized that these were the exact reasons why I should say yes.
Since the beginning of the school year, I have found myself struggling to come to terms with a daily routine that leaves little room for spontaneity and adventure. However, I have an inkling that this is mostly my own doing. I seem to be stuck in the constant cycle of looking ahead and forgetting to appreciate the here and now.
So, on Sunday night, I abandoned the cluttered living room and even messier kitchen. I threw some pieces of bologna into the backseat for the kids and called it dinner, and we headed to the river.
Hours later, I returned home with wet and muddy kids, another load of laundry, and a few extra mosquito bites, but, more importantly, I returned home with two kids wearing huge smiles on their faces. I returned home feeling lighter. Refreshed.
At the river, I sat on the edge of the water watching my children splash, build dams out of river rocks, and jump into the water fully clothed. I made an effort to be still and to enjoy the moment right in front of me and not the million of moments in the week ahead that needed to be carefully orchestrated: the pick-ups and drop-offs, the grocery lists and the homework, the soccer practices and Scouting events, the bedtime routines and the chores.
No, in the evening sun with the sounds of water and happy children flooding my ears, I remembered that life is not always about anticipating the next moment. It is not made up of perfectly packed lunches, neatly stacked laundry, and forms filled out in precise handwriting.
Life is about the shrieks of excitement when my daughter runs toward the water. Life is about the squeals of delight when my son, fully clothed, jumps off a rock into the deep water. Life is about those unplanned and unexpected moments of joy.
In my effort to make sure that everyone is on time to school and soccer and after school events, I have been forgetting this. I’ve been trying too hard to keep the house clean and the meals healthy. I’ve been trying too hard to fill out all of the forms, clean out the folders, volunteer on the PTO, and help in the classroom. I’ve been trying too hard to be the perfect stay-at-home mom to two school-aged children, but I don’t think it is working out because I seem to be spending too much time yelling and nagging and not enough time laughing.
I need to return to messy kitchens and piles of laundry.
I need to stop watching the clock so closely, and watch my children instead.
I need to keep nurturing that sense of adventure and wonder in my children that will stay with them for the remainder of their lives.
I need to remember that life happens between the scheduled moments. Life happens when we say yes to adventure and we focus on the moment in front of us.
How do you manage to balance school schedules, after-school activities, and family fun? I would love to hear your ideas!