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How Kids Teach You to Live in the Moment

How My Kids Taught Me to Live in the Moment

I've always been a five-steps-ahead kind of thinker. The next job, life stage, adventure . . . I'm there in my head years before my reality catches up. I'd always thought of it as a strength, and perhaps in my prekids life, it was, but it also meant that I missed some, if not most, of the joy of my actual life while I was planning for my future one.

Then I became a mom, and suddenly, it was hard enough to plan for the next meal, let alone where I'd be in five years. My attention was laser focused on the little bodies whose care had become my main job, and that task didn't allow for a lot of big-picture thinking. While it took some adjusting, eventually I realized that shift was a wonderful gift. Finally, thanks to my kids, I was able to just live in the now.

Granted, some days that now is a bit of a sh*t show. Last Friday morning, my 15-month-old woke up at 5 a.m., acted like he was starving, and chugged down nine ounces of whole milk before I could even get him back to my bed, where I was hoping he'd fall back asleep. Instead of snoozing, he immediately threw up his early morning breakfast all over himself, me, and four layers of bedding. Sure, I would have liked to transport myself a day ahead, when my bed would be clean, my foul-smelling hair washed, and my son's tummy troubles gone. Instead, we got through it together, minute by minute, and somehow, by the afternoon, I caught myself thinking that it had been a pretty good day. (See how becoming a mom makes you crazy?) The sun was out, my daughter had rocked her first lesson at a new swim school, we all enjoyed a nice lunch out, and the puking incident had, thank goodness, been isolated.

That is what life with kids can teach you: one minute might be absolutely horrible, but the next can be pretty terrific. Morning temper tantrums can be followed by perfectly behaved afternoons. A sleepless night can lead into a nap-filled day. A Friday filled with milky vomit and fueled by too much caffeine can precede a perfectly restful, healthy, and happy weekend.

Sure, it helps when the weather is gorgeous, the Spring flowers are blooming almost brazenly, and your husband is home to help you change diapers and deal with the constant requests, but this weekend, I found myself not just surviving life with two little ones but actually really having fun with it. (Joy is a big part of my life as a mom, but fun usually isn't.)

My natural reaction to such a pleasant 48 hours was to turn to my husband and say, "You know, things are going to get really good in a few years, when the kids are about 4 and 7." "Don't wish this away," he responded, somewhat ironically coming from a man who has been looking forward to the two nights I'm taking my kids to my parents' house next week for at least three months. As I looked over at my son, who was exploring a dirt pile quite happily, and my daughter, who was playing hide-and-seek with some friends she had met two minutes before, I knew he was right. The moment was perfect, and for my kids' sake and my own, I needed to be fully present in it. What a wonderful lesson they had taught me.

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