My daughter is 6 months old now. In human years, that’s not very many, but in baby years, that’s a lot. Like many other parents who have come before me and those who will come after, I marvel at the speed at which time seems to go now that she is here. And like all people everywhere, I have yet to discover the secret to stopping time.
Once we become parents, new responsibilities seem to rain down on us. We have to plan for a dozen different scenarios when initially packing to take our baby to the park (enough diapers? an extra outfit? a changing pad? a bottle? what time did he last sleep? does he need an extra layer?). And as our children get older, we continue to worry about daily activities at school, upcoming homework assignments, carpool schedules, what to pack for lunch tomorrow … and on and on. Because of these new challenges, it’s easy to find ourselves looking into the future or the past more often than being in the present. We are all aware that they “won’t be kids forever.” I hear it from parents practically every time I step out the door: “Enjoy it while you can. My baby is 34 now!”
So since we can’t stop time; is there any way to slow it down?
In her essay All My Babies Are Gone Now, Anna Quindlen reflects on her feelings about time and parenthood: “…the biggest mistake that I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. That is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs.”
Like her, I could use some practice in the art of living in the moment. I want to ignore my to-do list sometimes. I want to quiet the voices of the past that question and dampen the voices of the future that worry. I want to notice the sound of my daughter’s laughter and how she smells, even after she spits up. I want to look up from the computer screen and notice what’s going on around me. I want to spend as much time as I can with my family.
Intending to pay attention to whatever is going on right now is a good first step to being in the moment. Our kids help us with these tasks too because they are living in the moment far more than we are. They experience things in the now. Throw me the ball now! Look at the train! This ice cream is cold! If we take a moment to pay attention as we throw the ball, look at that train and really taste that ice cream, we could be just as present as they are.
It is practically impossible to be aware and mindful of every moment as it passes. And even paying attention to as many moments as we can isn’t going to keep us or our kids young, but we can try to notice their breathing as they sleep and notice our own as we quietly watch them. We can work to relax little by little and save tomorrow for tomorrow.
We can never stop time. But we can pay attention as it goes by.
We can try parenting in the moment.