I’m always looking ahead. When my children were helpless, toothless, sleepy newborns, I couldn’t wait for them to smile and interact. I couldn’t wait for them to start solid foods. And when they finally got old enough to gum through mushy mouthfuls of rice cereal, I couldn’t wait to be able to just hand them a snack from my purse while we were on-the-go.
When they walked, I couldn’t wait for them to run. When they ran, I couldn’t wait for them to jump. Their whole lives, it seems, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the next big achievement. Riding the highs of each milestone they reach. No sooner have they accomplished one thing, and I’ve set my sights on the next.
It’s only because I adore my kids, and I love seeing them experience new things, master new skills, conquer new challenges. It isn’t because I can’t wait to rush right through their childhood years — although I fear that’s exactly what I’m doing, even if it isn’t on purpose.
It’s just that sometimes I’m so eager to find out who my kids are going to become that I fail to appreciate and enjoy who they are. I place so much stock in the major stuff that I don’t even notice the little things. But the other day, I was reminded of just how much I miss while I’m busy paying attention to the “big stuff.”
It was a snow day, and my 7-year-old wanted to go outside right after breakfast. I could see him in the front yard from the window of my office, where I was struggling to meet a deadline. Writer’s block is a terrible thing, and instead of pecking away at my keyboard, my gaze shifted from the screen to my son.
I should have been working, but instead I watched him play. He bounded through the snow like an excited puppy, flopping into the fluffy expanse of white, fanning his arms and legs back and forth to make snow angels, huffing and puffing so that each breath hung in the air like dragon smoke. Then he heard the snow plow coming down the street and scrambled to his feet to watch. As it went by, he waved, and the driver honked a cheerful greeting in return.
My son’s delighted face was the very definition of joy. His cold, rosy cheeks seemed to glow from within, and his eyes sparkled more brightly than the snowflakes as he grinned from ear to ear. A simple honk from a snow plow had clearly made his day — and probably the rest of his week from the looks of it.
My heart felt like it would explode: That gushy rush of love that every parent knows. I remembered being his age and peering out the backseat window of our car trying to get truckers to honk on the highway and how thrilled I was when they did. It dawned on me how easy it is to make a kid happy. And I wondered how many of these tiny (inconsequential yet wonderful moments) I’ve missed while craning my neck to see what’s coming next.
We’ve all heard the old adage “You can’t see the forest for the trees” — a warning against focusing so closely on the details, the minutiae, that you fail to see the big picture. But in my children’s case, I think I’m doing the opposite. I’m so eager to witness each successful step toward adulthood that I sometimes miss the beauty of them just being kids. Kids who are still capable of being awed and overjoyed by the everyday things we adults ignore, like snowplows and spiderwebs. They focus on the trees — sometimes literally — and take in the wonders of the world around them, each little, seemingly insignificant experience is as exciting and great in their perception as the monumental events we write in their memory books.
I’m not going to stop looking forward to the big stuff, but I’m going to make it a point to slow down and savor the moments between the milestones — because it feels like I’ve already overlooked too much of the day-to-day while I’m dreaming about what will happen tomorrow.