Golden Age

          The other night we were taking a walk with the kids – older two on bikes, Mae in the stroller, temperature warm and the breeze balmy – when I had an epiphany: this is an amazing time in life.  I voiced this revelation to Marc, and he agreed.  “None of them are  teenagers yet,” I said, “None of them are newborns.  Everybody sleeps through the night, they all still think we’re kind of cool.  They’re all cute.  This is awesome.”  As I watched my older ones pedaling ahead of me and my little one sucking her thumb in the stroller seat I felt content.  Right now is pretty fabulous.
          We’re leaving for our family vacation to Florida soon and I can’t wait for the warmth and concentrated fun.  We’ll pick up Luke from his last day of school and keep on going til we hit the beach.  17 hours of family road trip awesomeness, a week of beachy nothingness, then 17 hours back.  To some (maybe most) that sounds equivalent to torture, but I am thrilled.   There will be a few hiccups, yes – someone will throw up, or pitch a fit in a restaurant or fall off a bike and cry -or all of the above – but I can deal with that.  Getting away together, just us, is worth the headache of packing for a family of five, driving for three days and vacuuming sand out of the minivan for a week.  We did this last year – same town in the panhandle, same rented house, same beach – and it was one of our best vacations ever.  Not because it was void of problems, but because it was long, it was lazy, and it was time spent together.  There’s a commercial Marc and I saw recently on Vimeo that masterfully puts pictures, words and music to the importance of taking a family trip.  It’s for a travel company in London, so clearly they have an agenda, but they get it.  Those Europeans know the value of a holiday.  Here it is.  Watch, enjoy, and then keep reading…
          “Let this be a lesson.”  That wise little boy.  “Holidays are the most precious time of all.”  Yes, I’m quoting a commercial. But it’s more than that to me.  In fact I’m claiming it as my theme commercial for summer.  Never had one before, but it’s that good.  That’s how much I love it.  That’s how much vacations with my family matter to me.  Just yesterday Luke asked if I could play a game with him, and I said no, I had to put clothes away and clean the kitchen.  It was sad but true.  That’s what’s great about being away, or even on a staycation at home.  I can play a game.  “It’s time you stopped.  Switched off.  Forgot about time.”  Yes, it is.  I want to enjoy exactly what’s happening now – my family at this very stage.  And though I can do better about that in my every day experience, I can totally rock at it on vacation.
          Last night Marc had me read the last chapter of the book he just finished.  It’s called The Idle Parent, by Tom Hodgkinson, and from what Marc and the cover of the book say it’s about enjoying being a parent and how it will benefit your kids.  I haven’t read it, so I can’t give a review, but here’s the beginning of the last paragraph (sorry if I’m giving anything away):
                    I am now in the golden age of family life.  The baby years are over.  No more diapers.  Much more
                    sleep.  The children are now three, six and eight.  We have a few more years to go before the trials
                    of teenagers.  I have reflected deeply on family life, made many mistakes, and while I am still
                    confused, I am at least certain that I want to enjoy it…
Sounds familiar.  I am at least certain of that, too.  I’m so thankful for moments like the one the other night where I am somehow able to mentally step back and see my life.  And for a longer, extended pause in time to sit still with my family for a moment.  To squish sand between our toes, watch the clouds drift over the ocean, build a sandcastle,  play Go Fish and Uno, eat ice cream every single day, go night swimming in the pool, find out our fake Captain-Underpants-determined names.  Poopsi Wafflebuns – that was me last year.
          The Golden Age is here, and I’m ready to stop, and enjoy, and actually see what’s right in front of me.  Let this be a lesson.

Mother’s Day Parade

          In writing the card for my mom yesterday, I once again noticed a recurring problem of mine: I take my mother for granted.  Just as my kids do.  Just as every other child does at some point, even after they’ve realized the sad fact.  I know I’ve noticed this fault in myself before, and I’ve made efforts to respect and cherish her more, and express those feelings to her, too.  But I inevitably return to my old ways at some point and rely on her without thinking of the gift she is to me.
          Things that are awesome about my mom: she’s kind, patient, ever-listening, never condemning, well-read and knows all words that have ever existed, takes care of my kids all the time, buys them clothes and takes them on dates, keeps on truckin’ when life deals a low blow, listens to good music, loves my dad, and never gives up on people.  Even me.  I used to think she was overly sentimental.  Her cards to my brother and me are packed with gushes of affection that I’ve heard since I was a kid, so sometimes I become immune to their benefits.  But when I stop and actually think for a moment about what that build-up of kind words has done for my self-esteem, my love for others, my outlook on the world, I realize their value.  When I’m reminded that other moms don’t do that, but actually criticize their daughters or worse, I can see my ungrateful heart for what it is.
          Things I have taken for granted about my mom since birth (besides all of the things listed above): that she got up to feed me every three hours for months on end, cleaned me up when I puked in my sleep, dealt with my hormone rampages as a teen, went without at times to make sure my brother and I didn’t, made food on every holiday when she would rather have been hanging out like the rest of us, bought groceries and cleaned our house and made supper and fixed us snacks and drove us from ballet to gymnastics to soccer.  All the things my kids don’t appreciate about me, and probably won’t value for a very long time.  I’m still figuring out how to be thankful for my mom.  No wonder my children at eight, five and two don’t have it down. Mothering is a silent parade of selfless acts.  No one pays attention though it’s going right down the street.  Even with floats.  As my dad wrote in my mother’s day card “The love of a mother, I believe, is the most powerful and pure proof of God.”  Wow.  The act of quietly giving yourself for your children because you so love them, because it’s what they need, knowing they mostly won’t thank you for it.  Yep.  I think my dad is right.
          No mother is perfect, including my own, but life without her is hard and painful to imagine.  So I won’t.  Not yet.  But I will try to tell her more than once a year how dear she is to me.  Give her an extra-long hug sometime, or send her a card on a day when nothing special is happening.  And I suppose I should cut my kids some slack.  Maybe even quit threatening to go on strike when they complain about the dinner I’ve made.  Someday chicken curry won’t seem like such an affront to their human rights. And the silent parade that’s been quietly marching down their street will be noticed.  And I’ll throw some candy and smile, knowing it took me just as long to see the spectacle.