We know we can’t possibly cherish every moment.
We know it’s not realistic to neglect our life responsibilities to soak up their every word and every expression.
We know that telling ourselves to savor every stage of their childhood is just setting ourselves up for failure.
So what do we do? How do we realistically live life now to avoid the pain of regret later?
And that’s when I looked into the rearview mirror and saw my daughter’s chocolate brown eyes staring back at me. She was still singing at the top of her lungs, but the song was half over. I felt a sudden urgency. “Stop thinking about ‘what if’ and sing! Sing before the song ends!” my inner voice pleaded.
So I opened my mouth and joined in.
“When I’m gone
When I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me by my hair
Gonna miss me everywhere
Oh, you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.”
Surprisingly, my daughter didn’t give me an exasperated look.
She didn’t roll her eyes and beg me to stop.
She didn’t chuckle and say, “That sounds terrible, Mom!”
My daughter smiled and kept right on singing.
When we walked in the house a few minutes later, it was eerily quiet. My daughter surmised that her little sister was still off with my husband, and it would be the perfect time to purchase a gift for her sister’s upcoming birthday.
She sat down at the computer and typed in the web address of her little sister’s favorite store. I saw the American Girl Doll site appear, and I knew my meticulous child would spend quite a bit of time carefully examining each and every item before making her decision.
I stood there a moment studying the back of her head—each strand of hair perfectly highlighted by the powerful combination of chlorine and summer sun. As much as I wanted to reach out and gently smooth her hair, I felt a pull—a pull to the dirty dishes piled in the sink … a pull to the mess scattered around the family room from a hasty departure… a pull to read the messages in my inbox … a pull to check at least one task off the to-do list.
But the song is half over, I remembered.
“Can I sit with you while you look?” I asked my thrifty daughter who’d gone straight to the SALEsection of the site.
“Sure, Mom,” she replied in a cheerful voice that indicated her face held a smile even though I could only see the back of her head.
And although looking at the American Girl Doll website for almost thirty minutes wasn’t the most entertaining activity ever, listening to my child carefully determine what two items her sister would love best was unforgettable.
And that’s when it hit me. Cherishing every moment until my child leaves home is not possible. After all, there are work commitments, bills to pay, and deadlines to meet; there are school assignments, extracurricular activities, home duties, and volunteer duties; there is life.
But there are moments in between life’s obligations when we are in the presence of our loved ones that can be made sacred.
Meals at the kitchen table, carpooling to practice every day, morning send offs and nightly tuck ins all hold great potential—potential to be all there. Within the duties of life, there are opportunities to meet her gaze in the rearview mirror … to ask her questions … to listen to her thoughts … to sit beside her as she does something she enjoys… opportunities to sing along to her favorite song… opportunities to sing along to the music of her life.
Believe me, I could fill those opportune moments with to do’s. I have the inherent ability to spot tasks that need attention every second of every day. But during my highly distracted years, I found that it doesn’t take long before those lost opportunities begin to accumulate. And when they start to pile up, they get heavy and the pain becomes inescapable. And later down the road, I bet that pile of missed opportunities will look a lot like regret—the kind of regret that lays at your feet after your loved ones have gone, making you wish you could turn back time.
But this story is not about regret. This story is about hope. Because there’s a song playing right now, my friends. If you listen closely, you can hear it.
It’s a Lego creation on the floor.
It’s a tea party in the playroom.
It’s a pick up basketball game in the driveway.
It’s a craft, a book, a picnic, or a recipe.
It’s a lingering cuddle in the glow of the nightlight.
There’s a song playing right now, today. And it’s not over yet; it’s not over yet. So push aside your hesitations, your duties, and your distractions for just a moment and sing along. Sing along so the people you love know that you’re all there and there’s no place else you’d rather be.
Rachel’s mission is to provide individuals with the inspiration, motivation, and tools to let go of daily distractions so they can grasp the moments in life that matter. Join her on her journey to a more meaningful life at handsfreemama.com, and by visiting her on Facebook at The Hands Free Revolution. Rachel’s book, Hands Free Mama, which is an inspirational guide to transforming a distracted life into one of meaningful connection, will be available in January 2014 from Zondervan publishers.