YOUR TIME IS NOT YOUR OWN.
It is a phrase I often use when describing motherhood. It is the one piece that I feel no one can adequately explain before becoming a mother. It often begins with your body feeling not your own- as your stomach swells and this life inside you takes over. Sometimes parenting still feels this way to me. Some days being a parent consumes my whole being and I am not even sure where I end and my child begins. This phenomenon has surfaced through many seasons of me being a mom. It often occurs when I have become too settled in one of the relationship I have with my children. Just when I think I know what to expect, it shifts. As a mom of three children in various seasons of their childhood, I continually try to make sense of my changing parental role. I am thankful that the four seasons are more predictable and follow a cycle through each and every year.
One of my favorite moments is waking to that first morning when the Earth has announced that Spring has arrived, with all her fresh greens and sweet sounds. Hope and renewal fill the air, as each green bud gently unfolds. I marvel as I look out at the dewy lushness and wonder how the Earth could have been so barren and cold only a few months earlier.
I never accurately prepare for the busy-ness of the Spring season. Birthdays, dance recitals, concerts, long nights spent at the ball field, end-of-the-school-year traditions, and graduation events suddenly take over the schedule. Dinner together becomes a rare occurrence. In Spring, everything grows- including our chore and to-do lists! The garden needs to be tended, flowers need to be planted, and the lawn needs to be mowed. The wash seems to multiply along with grass stains and sweaty uniforms. Last year’s ill-fitting clothing validates that each of the children has grown as well.
“You live half of your life in your minivan,” says my mother, who has recently learned to call my cell phone rather than the house phone. I am always driving to or from with a car-load of children. It is my own Spring sport. My life is like that math problem most of us dreaded in elementary school, “when two trains leave the station at the same time going in opposite directions…” I carefully orchestrate the afternoon events with similar renditions,“If my son and I need to pick up Johnny for the ball game that starts at 5:30pm but the boys need to be there by 4:30pm, what time do I need to leave my house to pick up Johnny? Oh, and where does Johnny live anyway?”
It always startles me when Spring and all her “wild energy” knock on our door—especially since we haven’t been able to close it yet! After the long winter season, I welcome the sun-filled hours and the longer days outside. The charged air calls us to do, do, do, and go, go, go! Among the chaos are peaceful moments not found on snow-covered sidewalks and driveways. A family walk allows us some pause and to talk with the new neighbors and our favorite ones as well. The basketball hoop on the top of our driveway gives way to impromptu games.
All too soon, this picture of our family life will shift, as each child glides into the next season of their childhood. I remember when I couldn’t wait until the children didn’t need my watchful eyes every moment of the day. I remember being exhausted by those hyper-vigilant hours as each learned to walk, stumble, and explore their surroundings. I longed for a few moments alone, with no one needing me or hanging on me. And then, with no fanfare or momentous acknowledgement, those days were over. In the beginning, I am sure I was relieved to have more space, more room to breathe. Then, just as quickly, I realized that the shift had been made- and those days were truly gone. I miss those days now.
One day, my five year old won’t ask me for a tea party on the lawn in our princess attire. I won’t be calling to my 12 year old son from our side porch, only to have him arrive home and beg to stay outside just a little bit longer. The season for the evening “tuck-in” has already begun to change. No longer do my older children request that I read our favorite story books in silly voices and sing sweet songs before they drift off to sleep. Instead I find myself confiscating electronic devices and hoping an opportunity to chat opens up, allowing for a glimpse into their internal worlds. Soon I will not need to rise at 5am to steal a quiet hour before the chatter of children flood the morning silence. I know in the future I will be thankful if they join us during what constitutes “morning” hours.
As the seasons change, I try not to hold on too tightly to the memories softened by rose-colored glasses. I want to soak up the present moments and not wish for things to be anything else than what they are. This is what I want, but it is difficult. I struggle to let go of what once was. It is like when you find yourself at the end of a delicious novel. You read on, but feel the bitter sweetness as each page brings you closer to the end. The characters and the feelings will always be with you, but the book is done, tucked away. I recognize this dilemma in my oldest daughter whose childhood chapter has come to an end. I celebrate the next season of her life while also grieving for the loss of the child she was not too long ago.
Making lunches, doing homework, keeping on a schedule, and racing around will come to an end this week as we welcome in the lazy days of Summer, with her outstretched reach from morning till night. I am looking forward to spending time with my three children. I look forward to awakening to the adventures that are before us, as we welcome in the newest season together.
Kimberlea Chabot is the founder of a hyper-local resource for holistic living called LuckyPennyFound. Please visit www.luckypennyfound.com for more information. Kimberlea lives in Connecticut and considers her husband of 18 years and their three children to be both her greatest blessings – and her greatest challenge to living mindfully.
Copper Beech Institute is the nation’s newest retreat center for mindfulness and contemplative practice located in West Hartford, Connecticut. We offer more than 40 transformational retreats and courses, as well as mindfulness practice and mindfulness at work offerings to help you find the calm, compassion and true happiness you seek.