I'll be honest. Most days I'm just trudging through this life as a mother. I'm on autopilot; serving meals, packing backpacks, wiping noses, waiting for naptimes, lifting tired bodies in and out of beds, counting the hours until I have to wake and do it all again.
I'm not as present with my children as I want to be. I can't always feign interest in my younger son's cars and trucks, or my older son's rants about Minecraft. I spend way too much time on my phone when I really should be soaking in their (mostly) sweet, precious selves.
I am well aware how fleeting these years are. My older son is eight and when I look at his long legs and his toothless smile, I want to cry. I remember so vividly when he was as small and round-faced as my 2-year-old is. At the end of our long days together, I sometimes ask myself: Where have all the years gone?
But as much as I want to be as present as possible, I know that motherhood is a balancing act. Sometimes I just need to decompress on the couch with my phone, connecting to other adults. Sometimes I seriously need to get the dishes into the dishwasher, and can't focus on the precise way my toddler is sliding his garbage truck across the kitchen floor.
This morning, walking back from dropping off his older brother at school, I saw my little guy gliding past me in his long, grey winter coat, his blue pom-pom hat. "Mommy, where are you?" he called. He'd somehow lost track of me. I looked at him, suddenly separate from me, wandering the world alone.
After I reassured him that I was right there, I took a moment to look at him, to take him all in. My little boy: 2 years, 5 months, at 8:30 a.m. on a cold, bright morning in March. This is it, I thought, This is his childhood. I even closed my eyes for a second and meditated on it, absorbing the moment into my breath and body.
Then we were on our way. I grabbed his hand as we crossed a busy driveway, fixed his falling-off mittens. I remembered the phone calls I needed to make when we got home, the floors that needed vacuuming.
But I realized something important. It is impossible for me to be present in every moment of this full, sometimes tedious, sometimes miraculous life. But it only takes a minute -- a few seconds, really -- of self-awareness, of noticing, to be present with my children.
Later, my son and I were playing on the carpet. Yes, I was at the other end of the room for some of it, organizing my older son's Skylander figurines. Yes, I was trying to answer a few emails on my phone. But I also took a few minutes here, a few more there, to be fully present with him.
I watched him strum a few songs on his ukulele. I watched him purse his lips as he dropped a marble down his marble maze.
As the day progressed, I started to feel lighter, each moment I held onto lifting me up, removing some of the drudgery of the long day.
A little goes a long way. I am going to make a greater effort to stop for a second and just be with my children. To bank these moments, save them up. To do the best that I can, one breath at a time.