I was sitting on the bleachers today watching as my two boys raced around the field, attempting to kick a ball with their still-too-tiny feet. I smiled to myself and felt a familiar sensation of overwhelming amazement that two years had almost passed since I first met them and saw their little faces. I asked myself a question that I often pondered: how in the world did the time go by so fast?
Then I realized, “Oh no! Two years almost passed means their birthday party should be happening soon and I haven’t started any planning yet!” So, I pulled out my phone and started doing some research on the best possible venues for the kids (and adults!) to have fun. I started a list of people to invite and another list of things I needed to buy and one more list for possible themes, then I almost ventured over to the all-consuming world of Pinterest. But, I paused and decided, “You know what? This can wait until later. I am at the park with my boys after all!” I looked up and saw them tripping over each other and giggling and I felt warm and fuzzy inside. I went through and started closing all my open applications.
Then I saw it: an email from Florida Prepaid College. I had forgotten to submit today’s entry to win a free college tuition! So, I opened the web page and started to fill out the form. Yes, they are only almost-two, but 18 will be here before we know it and I’ve got to be prepared. You can never be too prepared. Even Scar in The Lion King tells us to be prepared.
But, I paused a moment and decided, “You know what? This can wait until a little later.” I looked up and saw one of them crying because his brother stole the ball and shook my head. Why can’t they ever play nicely? And then I thought, “After I put the boys to sleep I’ll get to all of this, but I should write down everything I need to do after I put them to sleep so I don’t forget.” I opened the notes application in my phone and started my “To Do” list.
- Plan birthday party
- Look into college savings possibilities
- Make a meal plan
- Clean the bathrooms
- Start the laundry
- Take a shower
I closed my eyes and thought hard about what else around the house needed my immediate attention. “Okay,” I thought, “that should about do it.” And I decided this time I was going to really enjoy my time with them at the park, so I closed out the app and put down my phone.
When I looked up, I saw both boys staring at me with a look I instantly recognized, that look they give when they are waiting patiently to show me some new trick they’ve learned or want to share something with me. Usually, it’s accompanied by a chorus of “Mommy!” but not this time, as if they didn’t want to interrupt me on my phone. They waved and smiled and I wondered how long they’d been staring and waiting for me to look up long enough so they could wave.
My heart broke in that moment as I realized here I was on the bleachers, literally living life from the sideline. Here I was planning for their second birthday and planning for their 18th birthday and completely ignoring this moment when they are still young and still here and still waiting for me to look up so that they can wave hello.
I stood and asked if I could join their game. Neither of them was upset, but I was. Neither of them felt betrayed, but I felt I had betrayed them on some level. They smiled and kicked me the ball without hesitation as if to tell me I was silly for even asking, of course I could join them! I could always join them.
I suppose that is the real beauty of the naivety of youth: you believe in always. But I know better. There will be a day when I won’t be able to join them, and if I have done my job correctly, they won’t need me to.
But today? Today is not that day. Today I’ll put my phone away and stash away my lists and worries for another time. Today I’ll be a best friend to my boys and I’ll run around the soccer field and encourage them to stand up when they fall. Today I’ll be a mom and serve as a mediator when they fight over a toy.
Today I’ll be present.