Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Life lessons from my toddler


I hate shopping at the best of times, so last week when I was forced to venture out to the mall with both kids in tow I wasn't in the best mood as you can imagine. I was rushing my errands so I could factor in a quick play for the boys at some indoor jungle thing before getting back home for lunch, when something happened.

My almost three year-old asked to stop and look at the water fountain. No big deal. But as we stood there, I turned my head for a second and when I looked back he'd climbed up and put his legs in the water - jeans, shoes, socks and all. I couldn't believe it. Instantly I got cross because we still had jobs and playtime ahead of us, and his pants and shoes were soaking. I was sure we'd have to abandon the mission and head home, but I was wrong.

My son didn't give a damn. Even an hour later after traipsing around with wet gear on, he couldn't care less. And suddenly I found myself having a reality check. If he didn't care, then why did I?

It was pretty painless when later I threw the jeans and socks in the laundry and dried his shoes out in front of the heater. So why did I jump into my Cranky Mum Pants so quickly when he did it? He didn't hurt anyone and didn't break any laws (that I know of), so why was I so annoyed? A big fan of fountains, he probably looked at the water and thought, "Yep, I want to put my feet in," and so he did. He didn't think about the consequences, he just went for it. He was living in the moment.

Children have that amazing ability to be completely in the present without thinking about it, something which fades away and is much harder to achieve when we become adults. Life is just too complicated and busy right? I'm glad my son put his legs in that fountain because it gave me a much-needed wake-up call. I most certainly have not been living in the 'right here and now' of late. There's always some place to be, some job to think about or someone to worry about, and way too much emphasis on being a responsible and organised member of society.

I feel ashamed that I told my son off for taking a dip in that fountain. I don't want either of my children growing up too fast or thinking doing something is wrong when it's actually not. Obviously if he consistently ran around getting soaked ten times a day then that's not cool, but so what if he wants to do something a little crazy to satisfy his curiosity or get him closer to something he loves? I wish I was like that more often. I know I used to love sitting outside in the rain when I was a child, often without an umbrella, but it's been a long time since I've done anything like that.

Another childhood memory I often think about is when I spent an afternoon making daisy chains on my neighbour's lawn. When my mum came to collect me I recall her looking at the grass wistfully and saying she felt like sitting down and doing daisy chains too. I remember feeling surprised and excited, this was so unlike her."Well, why don't you?!" I said. "I can't," she sighed.

I distinctly remember feeling disappointed and determined that I was never going to be like that when I grew up - I would always have time for daisy chains. Ah, the blissful gift of childhood innocence and ignorance. Now I'm a mum myself, I know she probably had to make the dinner, help with homework, and a bunch of other boring adult jobs to keep the household running and everyone happy. It wasn't easy for her to be spontaneous, and to slink off for a whimsical moment would no doubt mean repercussions she didn't have the time or energy for. Spontaneity was for people without children.

I think about my life before being a parent and can't recall that many occasions when I really lived in the present though. Only one springs to mind, which was when my husband and I got engaged. We had a party to celebrate and a lot of people were lovely enough to give us expensive champagne as gifts. We carefully stored them all away in our wine rack and cupboards so we could drink them on special occasions. But only a few weeks after, one sunny Sunday a friend dropped by and we decided to crack one for no real reason. It was delicious. We quickly finished it and then moved on to another bottle, then another and so on. In the end I think we drank about $500 worth of champagne in the space of an afternoon. Talk about ostentatious! But it was thrilling and so much fun. My husband and I remember this as one of the best days we've ever had and do you know why? We were living in the moment. Sure we could have been sensible and saved the bottles, but what for? Tomorrow is never a certainty.

So how do you keep the balance between being a responsible adult who provides and protects, and being a carefree spirit who lives in the moment? It's so easy to get stuck in the day to day swirl of life's issues and duties, and before you know it they outweigh all the great stuff that comes naturally. Having children definitely narrows your ability to live in the present because you're always playing it safe, thinking ahead or up to your eyeballs in jobs. But children are also the key to reminding us to live in the present.

I think the trick is to know when to stray from the path - i.e. when the consequences are going to be insignificant (other than giving your soul a massive boost). Perhaps we only need to be responsible 90% of time. So, from now on I'm going to take a leaf out of my children's book. When the mood strikes me, the jobs can wait because I'm going to make daisy chains. 

When did you last live in the moment? What have your children taught you?

photo credit: w4nd3rl0st (InspiredinDesMoines) via photopin cc

3 comments:

  1. I can definitely relate to this. I can't think of a recent example of living in the moment. Eeek. Must work on that!

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    1. It's so hard to remember to be carefree and impulsive isn't it? Sad!

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  2. Great article. Good reminder for us all. S spent two hours the other day watching the neighbour take wax off his surfboards.... I kept trying to tell him to come inside, instead gave up and asked the neighbour if he minded babysitting for a while (for free, LOL). Don't know why I was so hung up on him staring longingly at this guy now.

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