11/18/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Stop, Drop and Pay Attention

It's amazing what comes out of the mouths of babes. My son recently said two things in particular that made me laugh out loud and marvel at the ingenuity of a young mind. First, on a dreary day, he blithely commented, "Rain is the cloud's pee," then several days later remarked, "Ketchup is my bright light," as he was enjoying his lunch. How profound, even poetic. I'm just thankful that at both times, the endless chatter in my mind was quieted enough that I caught wind of his 4-year-old musings.

But afterwards, I wondered to myself if there were other enlightened thoughts of his that I had missed because I was too busy, too distracted or too preoccupied. As busy parents, juggling the hustle and bustle of daily life and trying to stay one step ahead of everything we're responsible for, it's so easy to miss these simple, precious moments.

Whenever my mother-in-law visits and is immersed in the madness of her two young grandchildren who are usually rambunctiously wrestling, dancing or running around, she repeatedly tells me, "This is the best time of your life." And I always look up at her through the tangle of arms that are draped around my neck with an expression that can only translate to 'are you kidding me?' I'm still too entrenched in the fog of early morning wake-ups, temper tantrums, failures to communicate and little time to myself to truly grasp what she is saying.

The start of the recent school year however has given me a little more insight into her comment. Although my son has not yet matriculated into the official public school system, he does so in one year and I'm already preparing myself for what I'm sure will be a tough transition (for me, not him). As I see friends' kids leave the nest, so to speak, and start their journeys as more independent beings, the same inevitable road ahead leaves me with a longing desire to freeze time. I can already feel the heartache of watching his little body walk into the big halls of a new school. In just a few years, temper tantrums may be replaced with tween silence and although my son is never bereft of affection, both giving and receiving, I fear there will soon come a time when only I initiate it, not him.

There will eventually be a time when we aren't our kids' everything, when they would rather spend time with their friends than their parents, and a time when we would appreciate hearing our kids' musings, or even a hello for that matter. As clichéd as it sounds, I really do want to treasure the present because the other cliché, 'kids grow up so fast,' couldn't be truer. Despite the hustle and bustle and constant chaos of being a working mom, I've made a resolution to be more present with my kids and really value these early years as I witness their growth as individuals. My mantra lately to myself has been:



Pay attention.

Whether it's dropping the iPhone to appease a constant clamor of "Watch me, mommy! Watch, watch!" dropping the checkbook to postpone paying some bills, or dropping on the ground to roll around and play, genuine engagement is what's truly important.

Kids do say the darndest things. I just hope we're not too busy to hear them.