I watched the documentary Babies last night with a group of friends. It made me keenly aware of two things at exactly the same time: I'm thrilled that I no longer have any babies, and I miss my kids as babies. I think that all of life is like this. It's human nature to miss a stage when it is over, while not appreciating it fully when it is part of our lives.
I'm trying to get better at this, but it's still not easy for me. I tend to look forward to the next thing, peering to look around the corner at what is ahead, instead of luxuriating in the only thing that is certain: the moment I am residing in. I have suffered with this affliction since my childhood. Why is contentment such a tough one to master?
My bathroom calendar had this anonymous quote on it the other day, "Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have." To me this means appreciating what I have at any given moment, and not banking on a future which has yet to arrive.
I tried to enjoy my kids as babies, because everyone who had walked the parenting path ahead of me reminded sagely about how fast it would go, and how I would miss it when it was gone. As always, I listened and participated half-heartedly, not fully understanding what I was being told until it was too late and the stage was behind me.
I was longing to sleep through the night again, and not hear crying on and off all day, and have no more poopy bums to clean or food to cut up and place on the high chair tray. I was waiting for the next thing, and in doing so I missed some of what was right in front of me, both good and bad. I don't want to do that anymore. There has to be a way to embrace the stage I'm in, at any given moment, and still look forward to the future.
It comes down to the right balance. If it's too lopsided, the whole thing tips over. We can't hold onto anything, except in our memories. I want to be fully present so that I can commit the experience to memory - the sights, the sounds, the smells and the feelings I felt. This is not just for the vacations and the red-letter days, but for the everyday.
Watching that movie last night brought back a nostalgia for a stage that is behind me, and I wouldn't want to bring it back because I love where I am now, and I know that we can't re-do anything in our lives. But it's good to be reminded to live in each moment, not wishing it away, because as sure as the wind blows over the prairies, the stage will be gone before we realize it, and I don't want to regret that it's gone forever.