Letters from a Blogger, Letters from a Learning Mother

The Price Of Being Present

Some might call it a bad habit, but the easiest, most effective way to put my son to sleep is for me to nurse him and watch as his blinking slowly conceals his bright eyes and the purest peace washes over his sweet, soft face.

I love lying next to him when my otherwise very lively ten-month-old is in such a serene state, yet how many times have I been guilty of holding my phone in the hand stretched out behind his head?

Though I am well aware that this season will be gone in the blink of an eye, far too often, I fail to choose to simply revel in the beauty of those fleeting moments with my ever-growing, ever-changing little one.

I’ve noticed that a restlessness arises in me in times most peaceful. It feels similar to wading into quiet waters and leaving all the noisy distractions behind as the rhythmic crashing of gentle waves becomes all that I can hear. Everything in me yearns to retreat to dry land. However, when I endure the initial tension it brings, I’ve found nothing more invigorating than being completely drenched in nothing but the moment I am in.

It occurred to me that we aren’t born with the ability to multitask while I was sitting at our wooden table enjoying my breakfast a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, my son sat next to me in his high chair and entertained himself with an empty cup after chewing up and spitting out everything I offered him from my plate.

A few minutes later, something else on the table caught his eye. As he reached for it, the cup in his hands went tumbling to the ground and rolled across the floor. The loud sound startled him, causing him to look down at the cup with wide eyes and let out a surprised squeak as if he had had absolutely no idea that he was about to drop what was in his hands by reaching for something else.

And I wonder if we ever fully outgrow that.

In this fast-paced, modern day of multitasking, the unfulfillable promise that “you can do it all” is a constant whisper lingering in the air, causing the assumption to arise that if you aren’t doing “everything,” you aren’t doing enough.

As a mother, I have certainly surprised myself on multiple accounts with all that I am capable of. I have walked out of the house looking like a camel with bags swung around my neck, shoulders, and the arms simultaneously carrying my son. I’ve held my phone between my shoulder and ear while carrying a baby on my hip and stirring something in a pan. And I’ve had heart-to-hearts with my husband on weekends while listening to music and doing dishes together as our little one slept.

Yet, I often need to remind my scattered brain to slow down when I’m finally able to tiptoe away from my sleeping baby after putting him down for a nap. It is simply a misconception that I can use the unknown amount of time to catch up on my e-mails and respond to a few text messages, scroll through social media and post a recent picture, do some laundry, clean the kitchen, vacuum the living room, jot down a few notes for a blog post, prepare something for lunch or dinner, make an important phone call, get started on a fun, creative project, sit down at the piano, get myself dressed and ready for the day and put my feet up while I drink a cup of coffee.

Oddly enough, I rarely get anything done by the time my son announces that he is back and ready for another round of play when I’m running around between too many tasks. And on the days when I find myself attempting to tackle too much at once, I’m almost guaranteed to fall into bed that night feeling utterly exhausted, yet as if I’ve failed to accomplish a single thing.

Over the past few months, I’ve grown to believe that a huge source of our generation’s dissatisfaction comes from focusing on too many things simultaneously, then only having the capacity to tend to them halfheartedly.

And in my life, I’m not holding meaningless, empty cups like my baby was during breakfast. I’m holding my son’s life and childhood, my marriage and my husband’s heart, our happy little home, our finances and calendar, my friendships and relationships, my hobbies, a part-time job, and my own well-being.

I used to admire those who had mastered the art of juggling the many things that land on their plate, but today, I look up to those who live focused and intentional, fighting fiercely to be present in the moment they are in.

There are days when that looks like spending half an hour doing absolutely nothing but holding my sleeping, growing baby in my arms and not feeling the slightest amount of guilt for all of the things I am not getting done.

Other times, it might mean staying in for the night and spending a few hours making our apartment sparkle again. Or on other days, it means sitting at a café with a close friend and sharing what’s on our hearts as we do our best to entertain my son, resisting the temptation of glancing at my watch and planning the rest of the day in my mind or taking my phone out of my pocket.

Sometimes, it means getting caught up on the work that tends to pile up while my little boy plays outside with his Oma. Other times, it means joining them on the picnic blanket and feeling my smile widen as I lean back and watch someone else interact with my son who is just as smitten with him as I am.

The price of being present isn’t necessarily a messy home or spending lots of money on fun activities I can do with my son. And it doesn’t always mean letting go of hobbies, TV shows, social media, or other things I could live without.

However, I want to spend the precious chunks of uninterrupted time I have wisely and intentionally, scrubbing our floors with all my momma muscles or researching something for work without any extra tabs open. I want to withstand the urge to fill every moment to the brim and allow myself to be alone with my thoughts every now and then instead of merely scrolling through someone else’s.

And when I spend time with my little one, I want to be all there, not missing a single chance to look into his bright blue eyes and observe him with a proud and beaming heart as he discovers the world we call our own.

For the price we pay to be nowhere but present seems so minor in comparison to what we gain: people loved, challenges conquered and most importantly, a life truly lived.

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