Enjoy the Moments that Make Up the Journey
Sometimes I learn more about my children's day from what I pull out of their pockets when I do laundry than from what I can pull out of them when I pick them up from school.
The pockets are full of leaves, hair ties and rocks. My inner child appreciates those, the stones with colorful lines or those particularly round and smooth. I keep those, like offerings, in the base of plants in the kitchen and around the house.
But I detest laundry. Folding is the worst. And yet, I've had to take those moments and transmute them into parts of something larger. The sorting before the wash becomes an investigation. The folding is a time for them to be gofers to bring the clothes back to their rooms and be silly with me. I've had to work to see that change because I've detested laundry in the same way that I detested something else I've worked through — the line that people like to tell parents: "Enjoy this time."
It's meant well, but it's a phrase usually said to a disheveled mom or dad, maybe out for the first time with a newborn. The well-wishers will stop, tilt their head and beg you just to enjoy this time, right now, to suck it up and be so grateful for that little miracle.
That mom might still have the smell of the diaper blowout in her nose. She has not slept except for about four hours in spurts. She's bleeding clots, her stomach deflated, or her abdomen torn and silently — to the outside world but not to her — healing from being cut open.
Enjoy this moment. Be here in this now. Enjoy the gasps of air you get while drowning. The pile of laundry will never end.
Unfortunately, the well-meaning wish to enjoy time only makes sense after traveling through time. It comes from knowing that change will follow you forever, as all things you had have changed. Your laundry isn't done as it was before, with stray quarters in a row of washers in a musty room. You can no longer count on your back seat being clean enough for spare riders. Your jumbled mess of a house competes with the one you dream of, the one with art deco vases placed just so.
You have changed.
Lebanese American writer Kahlil Gibran's thoughts on children, from his book "The Prophet," ring in my head now and then.
"Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams."
I've stood there, at the edge of that doorway, wanting to tell someone with a baby in their arms about enjoying that moment. I see the baby with those beautiful chubby rolls and wild laughter that sounds like an old man. I see the progression of my journey in life through my older children — the lanky cheeks that held baby fat and the encroaching shy laughter that comes from them starting to debate if they can truly share their joy in a world so large.
Enjoying this isn't necessarily about the moment; it's about the entire ride.
It's the moments when your children start to ask how your day has gone with actual interest, combined with the moments of suffocation when you're not allowed to poop in peace. It's the long game of the journey, and if you're lucky, you end up on a warm beach, watching your children build their own boats, filling their pockets with the lessons you gave them and sailing away to find their own shores.
Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.