The other day I took my 3-year old on our first “official” mother-son date. I had a general schedule in mind with a rough time frame sketched out for each activity: 30 minutes at the park, 45 minutes or so for lunch, another half hour for ice cream with time left over to make a stop at Home Depot. But once we got to the park we began to explore; we happened upon a bridge that overlooked a lake inhabited by a flock of ducks. He was reluctant to rush so I took a deep breath before mentally shredding my time schedule and tossing it away. We started to count the ducks as they appeared from under the bridge and laughed as they dove for their fishy lunch. It was only our craving for burgers that forced us to leave our new duck friends.
It was in those moments of counting ducks and giggling with my little boy when I realized that there are layers to living. On the surface there are the to-do lists of responsibilities and existence, but below those lies the essence of being alive. Consider these juxtapositions:
- sitting down to dinner at a dirty, cluttered table and silently chewing and swallowing the hastily prepared food in front of you or coming to a table that has a candle lit in the center, the table settings are on place mats and the food is fragrant and warm?
- walking outside and only viewing the sidewalk or noticing the fluffy clouds in the sky, seeing the multi-colored foliage all around and hearing the birds in the trees?
- getting up in the morning and mindlessly completely the routines of the day: personal hygiene (for you and your household), dishes, laundry, meal prep or doing all of those same things but chatting and laughing with your family while you do them and maybe have some upbeat music playing in the background?
On that bridge I recognized how much of life is missed in the busyness of living. My kids are learning exponentially from simply living life slowly and observing their surroundings. This recognition has transformed my preparations for 2018. No longer is my focus going to be on accomplishing my goals; instead, I am going to be focused on slowing down, tuning in and turning the mundane into a meaningful memory. There will still be essential tasks to complete but in doing so I don’t want to miss out on the subtleties, the hidden layers, the sensory delight, the essence of living: like counting ducks with my son.