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Strolling down memory lane: Keeping it in check

While I was playing taxi for my son last week, he flicked his wrist to the beat of the song on the radio and I was instantly catapulted to a memory from 15 years ago: An extremely excited toddler in diapers listening to Bob Marley and doing a wrist flick with each exuberant dance move. At the time, seeing him do this brought me so much laughter, I was crying.

To this day, it still brings a reminiscent smile. When my kids ask me what I’m smiling about, I tell them these memories about when they were little.

Most times, when I remember when the kids were younger, it’s usually the positive ones. The smiles, hugs, the cute way they talked. I think what I really miss the most was when they would say, “Ok, mommy! I love you!”

As a parent of teens, when times get tough (which they often do) it’s easy for me to want to escape the current reality and romanticize the past. Back to the “easy” moments of parenting. You know, when things were simpler.

Ahhh yes, when times were easy and simpler.

Or wait, were they? (I hear you snickering parents with young kids; hang with me.)

Even though they may have been younger and smaller, I tend to forget the other details. The diaper bags, childcare, work, young parent stress, sleepless nights, and the infant puke. Don’t even get me started on how everything was sticky – or the public tantrums.

All of that still makes me shudder.

While it’s my tendency to look back on the past and say, “Oh I remember (that time in life)? Things seemed so much easier,” I fail to recognize that it wasn’t always that way. What I’ve come to realize is there are no “easy” times in parenting. There are growing pains when it comes to growing people.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and because I know more now, it only seems easier.

I can just as easily remember the cringeworthy memories. The ones where my patience ran thin, and I yelled too loudly at them. When I felt like I didn’t spend enough time with them in the day because I was too busy doing one thing or another. Those words I regret saying or not saying. The things I wish I would have done with them.

Man, if I could just turn back the hands of time and change it, right?

For me, it’s important to remember the past but I must make the conscious choice not to live there. The memories can oscillate between fond or cringeworthy, but the biggest takeaway is that they are in the past. There’s nothing I can do to change or alter the past.
Simple as that.

It’s a dangerous place for me when I continue to live in the past, positive or cringeworthy, because it prevents me from living in the now. When I’m replaying a scene over and over, wishing I could change the outcome or relive a positive moment, it doesn’t allow me the gift of experiencing the present to its fullest capacity.

When I’m living in the past, I am failing to live in the present moment.

I am reminded of moments when I wished for time to move faster. So that they could walk and tell me what they needed. Or when they could be more self-reliant. Now, I wish for time to stand still. They have lost their baby faces. One is growing into a handsome young man and the other into a beautiful young woman. Both will soon leave the nest to go make their own nests.

Time moves so fast. I often wonder if I am setting my kids up for success in the real world doing adult things. Worrying too much about the future is a whole new can of worms, which is why it is so important for me to stay in today. This moment.

Living in the moment means experiencing the journey of life as it is right now. If I don’t, I’ll miss the gift and beauty of the present. When I look back at the memories with my kids, I realize that if I hadn’t been present in that moment to experience it (positive or cringeworthy), I may have missed that memory altogether.

Even though my kids have full lives today, I choose to be present with them when we’re together. I’ve noticed that my teens have tiny windows of opportunity for when they are ready to connect with me. If I’m not living in the moment, I could miss that chance.

I’m very much aware that I will, at some point in the future, look back and say, “Man, I miss my kids. I hope they call this week.”

Today, I am choosing to live in the moment as best as I can.

After all, living in the past won’t help create memories today to remember for tomorrow.

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