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

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