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Emily Ballard Headshot

'Enjoy Every Moment' Includes The Ones Later, Too

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As parents, we're instructed to "enjoy every moment" and are constantly reminded that "it goes by so quickly." The implication is that once on the other side of parenting our children daily, we'll be aimless and a little bit empty. The sense is that once they're grown, it'll be our obligation to feel melancholy; we'll naturally move into resignation, into pining, into asking when the grandchildren will begin to arrive.

But it occurs to me that perhaps we need to prepare ourselves to enjoy the moments that are coming. Our kids are going to grow up and leave us, yes. Actually, they're not going to leave us -- they're going to become more fully who they are, and venturing into the world beyond us an obvious, to-be-encouraged step.

And so instead of repeatedly nudging myself to enjoy every minute now and then anticipating a nagging sense of loss once I've moved into a different stage of this sweet little life I have, I'd like to shift the paradigm into something that looks more like: Hellz Yes Now, Hellz Yes Later. Or, if you're into the more refined thing, Presence Now, Presence Later.

And that? That feels great.

Last year, my husband and I went to see Ira Glass speak. Before the show, we walked around town. We were dress up, him in a jacket, me in a shiny skirt and heels. There was a new store all lit up and I was pulled in there like a magnet. We walked through the door and I was assaulted by perfection. There were air plants everywhere, hanging from the ceiling in hollow glass orbs. The jewelry case was full of pebbles or rice -- I can't remember which, rings and cuff bracelets standing up inside, magically perched.

In the back right corner were the textiles. White -- so many different whites. There were thin wool blankets, with a single rust or cerulean stripe running through. There were pillows with small, whimsical images in their centers. There were bold, heavy cookbooks that were surely meant more for inspiration than practical application. There was a solid, rough-looking kitchen island on creaky wheels.

And there was me. "I just... this... I want our life to feel like this," I whispered, slipping my smooth hand into my husband's calloused, worked hand.

"This'll be our third act, babe."

I smiled at my husband. I pressed my cheek into his shoulder. I looked around, imagining our house 20 years hence. Our kids would be beginning their trek toward real adulthood. Our floors would be refinished, our walls painted. I imagined living among such constant, tangible beauty. I imagined the sunlight. I imagined our gardens -- full of more flowers than weeds by then. I imagined quiet mornings, birds outside, the crinkle of the newspaper we never read now, but might pick up then.

I imagined our third act.

I'm imagining it now and I'll admit that anticipating the absence of our children is making my eyes burn; there's a little something in my throat.

And yet, I can't help but notice, in these momentary daydreams, a languid feeling of peace dripping down the lens of my mind's eye. I'm relaxed. We've done that part of our job -- the early years part -- and now, we're needed in different ways. And, like a miracle, we've been re-given the gift of space and time, the space and time we had when we were new, all those years before.

I suspect I'll look across the room at my husband on one of these future days and I'll remember anticipating the very moment I'm living and I'll cry a few blissed-out tears. (My joy always comes through my eyes.)

Because we'll be where we are.

And they'll be where they are.

It will be different.

And it will be perfect.