I took my 1-year-old son Hudson swimming the other day, and there was an older guy soaking up the sunshine in a chair near the edge of the pool. Hudson was in his happy place and at peak cuteness, squealing and splashing around with a big smile on his face.
When we made our way over to the edge, the guy smiled, said hello, and then said, "To be that age again, huh?" I agreed.
"I wonder what the world will be like for him when he's my age," he said. "Ah, well. For now, it's perfect."
I was so moved by his simple statement. I looked at my beautiful boy — chubby arms clinging to me, big eyes squinting from the sun and from smiling so hard, drops of water in his long eyelashes — and no statement could be more true. For now, it's perfect.
There are plenty of warnings about things to come as a first-time mother: lack of sleep! Your relationship will change forever! Your body will never be the same!
But the real warning should be that you have to learn to live with your heart outside of your body — that you'll love your baby so much, it's terrifying.
The first few weeks after I got home from the hospital, I couldn't stop imagining horrible things happening, like versions of my own death or something happening to my baby. My own mortality has never been much more than a fleeting thought, nor have I had to consider how to nurture and cultivate a human life besides my own. Having Hudson brought a flood of new considerations and emotions front and center.
Thankfully, the gruesome images faded quickly. But the love I feel for Hudson, the desire to protect him and raise him to be a good person — these have grown daily. And as a result, my tendency toward worrying about making the right or wrong choices has grown in turn. I experience decision paralysis over what I order at a restaurant: what if I get the fish but the steak was actually so much better?! But now we're talking about life: Hudson's life, my life, our family.
And maybe that's why his comment had me crying behind my sunglasses in the pool. It's easy to get caught in the loop of worry in my head, but if I just hit pause . . . for now, it's perfect.
I worry about my career: what do I want to be? What's the mark I want to leave on the world? How do I best support our family, be present for Hudson and find self-fulfillment? Is there ever such a thing as balance?
But for now, though it all feels scattered and disconnected, I'm patching it together, I'm there for Hudson, and it's perfect.
I worry about growing our family: when is the right time? How on earth do you throw yourself into doing it again? How can I love another child as much as I love Hudson?
But for now, with the three of us and our crazy cat, it's perfect.
I worry about where we'll live, how to choose the place where Hudson's childhood memories will unfold. Will we make the right decisions about his education? Will we find a community of people to support him as he grows up?
But for now, our two-bedroom condo, overflowing with toys and baby gear and the best memories of my life thus far, is the only place I want to be. For now, it's perfect.
I worry about our relationships with family: how to stay close and connected with loved ones moving away and growing older, how to ensure Hudson does the same.
But for now, we have the luxury of family close by. I know how lucky I am to have that. For now, it's perfect.
And perhaps most of all — I worry about the mad, mad world we find ourselves living in today. How do I raise my son to be a reasoned and compassionate citizen when our leaders can't do the same? Where do I even begin to explain concepts like racism, sexism, and terrorism in a few years when he starts asking questions?
On these matters, the world we live in is far from perfect. But for now, Hudson is perfect — babies are born without prejudice or malice. It's my job to keep him that way and teach him to stand for what's right.
I'm so grateful for that stranger's small remark. It was an important reminder to pause and look down at what I have right here, right now.
As parents, we're always looking outward in matters small (What's for dinner? What do we need to get at the store later?) or large (see above list). But in doing that, it's easy to let the perfect little moments slip by without much thought. As is often pointed out by both philosophers and Pinterest, the only thing we're really guaranteed is right now, this very second. Being present with Hudson — that's the key. Remembering that for now, it's perfect.