Jekyl & Hyde Were Here... A Question of Contentment

I think that I am living with Jekyl & Hyde. Seriously. It seems absurd that in the time span of .0003 seconds the mood between my children can go from loving each other wholeheartedly, stroking each other's faces with fairies flying above their heads sprinkling "happy dust" to a scene from Kujo where the dog is hunting down people and snarling and biting and breaking through windshields to get to them. It is actually unbelievable! And, it is no longer just fighting over toys (we have about 30 cars in our home, and the most coveted one is whatever one the other kid is holding!), it is as though they are fighting over who gets to breathe first. They fight over who gets to open the front door when it is time to leave, they fight over who gets to the car first, they fight over who gets to brush teeth first, they fight over which bar stool to sit in. Yesterday, I witnessed these two precious children fighting over my cottage living magazine, which neither of them cares about at all. It was just the only thing within arms reach when the "selfish moment" kicked in. I mean, seriously?

I sat watching them this morning and what I witnessed broke my heart. What I saw were two little people who were so caught up in watching what the other person was thinking about playing with next so that they could get there first, and simultaneously trying to look as though what they were holding in their hands and playing with was THE most fun thing in the whole world in order to spark some jealousy in the other. My daughter was scanning the room like a hawk and shrieking with a totally unnatural volume, "Oooohhhh, my little pony, hee hee hee, you are the most beautiful pony, hee hee hee..."

Before you think I am totally melodramatic in my saying that this "broke my heart", let me explain why. It is because it was as though I saw in their interaction the entire picture of our culture at large. I saw two little people who are so blessed with ample things to be thankful for, and the opportunity before them to live in a moment of bliss and happiness, so caught up with sizing up what the other people around them were doing, seeing and wanting that they literally were missing the joy in front of them. They were missing the opportunity to play together, to enjoy one another.

Quite frankly, I saw myself. -I miss out on so much when I am looking at everyone else. I miss out on the magic in my child when I am looking at other kids to see how my child is developing in comparison to them...I miss out on the wonder of the stage that we are in (newborn, toddler, preschool, etc.) when I am focused on what is coming next and how that will be so much easier...I miss out on recognizing that I am a well-made woman with body parts that all work and the ability to walk down the street with my head held high when I am busy comparing my thighs with the woman's thighs who is walking in front of me (who is probably comparing her tummy to the gal next to her)...I miss out on savoring the sun shining down on my face as I sit in my backyard with my kids when I am looking across my yard trying to picture how great a built in bbq and outdoor fireplace would look in place of patchy grass...
I. miss. out. on. so. much.

...but the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three on them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in a hurry to get on to the next things: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.
-Anna Quindlen


  1. I'm not missing the point here, but wanted to say, my 2 older kids (6 and 7) are competitive, and the 3 yr old is watching everything like a hawk with x ray vision, when the moments of "what you have is best right now and I want it" hit I tell them if they cant play nice and work it out themselves the toy or what ever goes in time out and neither can have it, I have also pilled their things in bins with the rule of "play with whats yours, and ask to play with someone else's toy" (this rule for the child that intentionally broke other toys)
    As for the point you were trying to make; its so easy to get distracted by the hurries and comparisons and opinions of others and we do need to refocus priorities. I get so distracted that when a wonderful teaching moment comes I often just get frustrated and don't use the moment like I should. I should first be concerned about GOD's opinion of me, then my kids, and I really shouldn't be concerned of what others think of me. I have been missing showing my kids patience by being in a hurry, missing showing them the beauty of simple things by passing by looking at something else missing showing them blessings by not seeing or acknowledging them when they happen. And again the guilt kicks in as I see all those moments I wasted, but have to remind myself that more moments will be coming soon , I need to be ready to be in the moment and not let another one pass by.

  2. Those are great ideas to navigate the "sharing" issue. I welcome all ideas for how other moms are teaching their kids how to do this well...

    Anyone else have thoughts on sharing? Techniques, tricks, etc...

    And, as far as the main point...I think that it will be a daily challenge to live my life with my eyes wide open - looking for the moments to soak up. I am glad I am not the only one that struggles with this.

  3. My kids do the same thing and I have found that if I "time" each child with the coveted toy, it seems to take away the desire to have it. Most of the time the other child doesn't even want it when the time is up or gives will give it up sooner.
    You are so right about living in the moment. I have tried to be "present" for my children as much as possible. My daughter is now 15 and it went by sooooo fast. There are so many things that can be done later but time with your children can never be returned.


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