[ The two of us at the moment of writing this post - playing with the front camera on my iPhone. Also: GOOD GOURD could this child look any more like me? The Y chromosome is the only hint I didn't just spontaneously clone myself. ]
As a Buddhist, I do my best to stay in the here and now. The present moment is the only moment and all of that. And I think that it serves me well as a mother to be fully present with Paulo, both for my own sake to really truly be experiencing each moment, and for his that I’m not off somewhere else when he needs me HERE. However, I absolutely draw the line at *cherishing* the present moment. Won’t do it.
I see a lot of the same sentiment from moms around the interwebs – “I’m going to savor this moment because when I’m old, I’ll miss my babies being young.” And that… that’s not what I’m after. Trying to cling to this moment and bottle it up for future use makes me just as absent as if I was in the future living my life looking back at the past. (It’s like that scene in the last episode of Six Feet Under: “You can’t take a picture of it, it’s already gone.”) I know where this sentiment comes from – I’ve definitely felt it before in P’s life, this feeling of being pre-emptively nostalgic. Your baby is growing up so fast and you already miss it and yet, he’s right there.
I think a lot of this has to do with a certain, for lack of a better word, fetishization of childhood that’s occurred in our culture. We’re told to believe – and we do, for good reason – that our children’s young years are the best. That the purpose of having kids is well, to have kids. We believe that when they’ve grown, the best of it is all over and we’re washed up as parents, doomed to spend the rest of our lives longing for the days of Sesame Street and diapers.
And I’m not going to buy into that. I want to believe that whatever present moment I’m in is valuable and joyful, not that there are certain present moments that need to be saved in a memory-bank for future use because when they run out, the fun of parenthood is over. For me, when I decided to have a child it was to experience another person’s life as their parent – not simply to have a kid. I hope to enjoy being Paulo’s mom just as much when he’s 19 years old as I do when he’s 19 mos. And when he’s grown up, I hope to enjoy having a grown son. Sure, there are always fond memories of the past and yes, childhood is absolutely a magical thing that you don’t get the chance to re-do later on, but I don’t want to think of myself as being 60 with a 30yr old son and pining for his younger days. What an insult that would be to grown-up Paulo if I thought that the best part of his life was already over!
So, I’ll be here in the present moment whether that present moment be playing the hug game or listening to the latest in his repertoire of tantrums, but I won’t be cherishing it. The present moment is, by nature, fleeting and when you try to store it up, you miss it. The mind-game of trying to live in the present as if you were in the future looking back on now is just as damaging to being truly in the moment as if you were, well, spending your time now looking back on the past. You put so much expectation on the moment that you aren’t fully experiencing it – you’re too busy filming the moment for your mind scrap-book.
I hope that when P’s childhood is over, my mind scrap-book has plenty of fond memories, for sure. But mostly I hope that whatever moment we’re in, I can enjoy being his mom – for he’ll always be my baby, even when he’s no longer my baby.