Yesterday, after five hours in the car, exploring two college campuses, $220, and dragging a toddler all around the Atlanta area, Olliver’s first library fines have been paid. I call them “his” because he dumped a gallon size container of bubbles on two of the books I borrowed from other libraries last semester, destroying them completely. Honestly, I didn’t even get mad at him when it happened. I have accepted that, when you have a toddler, this is life. (Seriously, your life with a toddler becomes a lot less stressful when you cut all emotional ties to material things. As long as everyone is alive, you’re good!)
One of the libraries that I had to pay was in midtown. We had already been in the car over an hour due to traffic, so tensions were running high. It was busy, crowded, and hectic. There I was, surrounded by college students and busy, important-looking people, lugging a thirty pound toddler on my hip. Even though he was screaming in the car, throwing brownies and spitting milk everywhere, he was really happy to be walking around. He was covered in Oatmeal pies and Brownies from head to toe and I looked tired and was sweating like a pig. Basically, I looked crazy and my kid looked crazier. (Please, don’t judge the bribery food I give my child. I swear we eat fruits and veggies too. Lol!)
Midway through the ordeal, while walking back to the only public parking garage I could find within walking distance, this older woman complimented our beautiful red hair. She was explaining to me that she had two grown daughters that also had red hair and we had a five minute conversation lamenting about how much money that moms of red headed children have to spend on sunscreen and discussing how well behaved my child was (He really was being good at that moment!). While I was talking to her, I was thinking about how put together she looked. She must have been a professor or some kind of professional. Her outfit was immaculate and she looked so polished. She seemed to be everything I hope to be one day. Meanwhile, with a thirty pound child on one hip and a thirty pound bag on the opposite shoulder, I’m pretty sure I looked like the human equivalent of a pack mule. As we went our separate ways, she said something that a lot of women whose children are older say to me, “Just enjoy every minute of it!”
Every time I hear this, I laugh a little bit. And if you hear it while you are out with your little ones, I’m sure that you sarcastically think something along the lines of what I do when someone tells me that, “Oh yeah? While I’m covered in sweat and dealing with tantrums every two minutes? I’m too tired to enjoy it.” Or “I’ll enjoy it when he’s 18.” But, this time, I started thinking about it. This woman seemed to have the put-together life I want to have, yet she missed the messy toddler days with her kids. For the first time ever I realized that one day, even though it may be impossible to believe, I’m going to miss these days. I’m going to miss my child’s forceful tantrums about stupid things (like not being allowed to eat all the crayons). I’m going to miss when he is doing something extremely naughty, figures out that I’ve caught him, and he gives me the world’s biggest grin. And I might even miss the fact that he wants to be with me 24 hours a day, attaching himself to my leg and begging to be held.
We need to stop waiting for things to be perfect in order to be happy. Because, let’s face it, nothing is ever going to be perfect… not even if the plans we pin all our hopes on somehow come true.
This isn’t just for parents. I think that everyone should start enjoying the present. How many people are working themselves to the bone right now and only look forward to relaxing or traveling when they retire? How many people are living more for their future than their present? It doesn’t matter if your life isn’t where you want it to be right now. There is still plenty around you to enjoy. You just have to see the little things around you within the bigger picture.
I don’t think that most people are living their lives to the fullest. I know that most days, I’m not.
Not only that, I prioritize so many thing that are not important in the long run. When I’m on my death bed, I don’t think I’m going to be thinking about what kind of car I have or if my outfits finally started coordinating. Neither do I think that I will be thinking about whether all the dishes got washed or if all the laundry made it out of the basket. Yet, on a daily level, these are the things I worry about. So many times, I am more worried about tomorrow to enjoy today. Most of the time, the things that I worry about are so trivial in the grand scheme of things that I need to reset my thinking. The important things in life are God, my family, and my friends. Everything else pales in comparison.
I should be investing in my relationships, not things. I should be investing in my present happiness, not just the hope of happiness in the future. I think that everyone could benefit from this shift in thinking.
I’m not saying that we all should pull an Office Space and no longer care about our jobs anymore or that we should stop striving for bigger and better things. I just don’t think we should be so exhausted from our current situations that we lose any ability to be happy or forget how important our relationships are with the people around us.
In short, just like I’m told all the time, we should enjoy every minute of it! “It” meaning everything… even the messy imperfection that you might be dealing with in the present.
I came home after spending all of that time in the car and took the nice woman’s advice. We played with cars, we jumped on the couch, we played with his kitten, we danced… There may have been a thousand things to do around this house, but I decided that none of them were important. As the famous lines go, “Babies don’t keep.” The dishes might not have gotten washed or the laundry folded, but we were happy. And I have decided that, from now on, that’s all that matters. Cleaning this house is not worth losing precious, awesome moments with my son. And, seriously, playing with him is a lot more fun anyway… even when he’s having a bad day.
So, let’s start living life to the fullest! Don’t be so tied to your desk or running around exhausted after your kids that you forget that there is beauty and happiness all around you. Make time to sit down and hang out with your family and friends… cell phone free. Take the time to play with your kids for a while instead of working on the house. We should start being more people oriented instead of constantly worrying about our plans and the material things that surround us. Who knows? After a while, we might even find that even though our lives aren’t exactly where we want them to be just yet, we can be happy right where we are.