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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Finding pockets of happiness in the chaos: take a minute with me before you break

I realize 2021 just started, but doesn’t it feel kind of like we’re extending a yearlong experience of a toddler who raided the snack drawer, missed their naptime and probably has a stinky diaper? It’s been chaotic, loud, and WHY is everything so sticky?

I may not have toddlers anymore, but life with teens can be just as chaotic. Just in different ways. No matter how hard I try, I can’t ignore it.

I used to hide a lot behind my smile. Life can be really difficult and from my experience, being a parent is nothing short of organizing chaos. Schedules, changes, work… And on top of that, adulting is a lot to juggle.

Queue the “mommy’s happy hour” posts and comments.

For a while, that worked for me. Until it didn’t. It’s no secret that I made a decision to step away from the “wine mom” culture in the middle of this pandemic, so I’ve really had to lean heavily on finding pockets of happiness and peace to keep my sanity in-tact.

Looking back, I had pushed my own needs to the bottom of a never-ending list… until I broke. Because I had a life-changing emotional and physical breakdown in 2014, finding pockets of happiness has become an especially important part of my daily life. Even more so today.

Finding pockets of happiness throughout each day started as a writing prompt I stumbled upon in 2014 when I was rebuilding my life (pretty sure it was from my therapist). This simple nightly prompt has sustained me for close to a decade and has become an unconscious competent act of self-love.

What those pockets are changes from day to day. One day it could be my hammock bed, the next could be the sunrise. Even though it could be all over the map, there is ONE thing that is consistently on my pockets of happiness list… the quiet moments between breathing intentionally.

The best part: It takes less than a minute.

So, take a minute with me. Sit back, get comfortable, and relax those shoulders. Unclench your jaw. Place your hands on your lap or to your side and notice your breath. When you’re ready, take an intentional deep breath in, expanding your stomach until you can’t bring in anymore air. As you exhale, pretend you’re blowing out a candle, bringing your bellybutton inward to your core, exhaling everything.

Allow your breathing to return to normal and say (or think) “Thank you.”

Do this three times. Eyes closed or open, in the office or in private, wherever, whenever. Don’t overthink it and if it doesn’t work, no big deal. This is what has worked for me.

Someone once told me at my lowest point that I could intentionally make my life into a beautiful and happy one. How? One day at a time. Sometimes, one moment at a time.

If, at the end of each day, I say it was a happy and beautiful day, I will look back and say it was a happy and beautiful life.

I can say, without a doubt, that my life is happy and beautiful. Sure, there are ups and downs, even the occasional derailing’s, but one thing is certain… I’m still here, and so are you.

Life isn’t going to go the way we planned, and that’s ok. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” (taken from his April 1960 address at Spelman College)

Keep going, friends. Find those pockets of happiness and enjoy them. Please know, you’re not alone.

I’d love to connect with you on the socials or through www.singleparentsproject.com.

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To view stories and lessons from our other Mommy Bloggers based in Central Pa click here..