There are two things swirling around my head this week: number one is how often an older person (usually a sweet grandma) tells me, “Enjoy these years while they last. It goes by so fast.” You with little kids like me; you know what I’m talking about. If you had a penny for every time, right? My kids would be in Snackeez and all other forms of “As seen on TV”-products-heaven. Of course you smile and nod. You recognize the wisdom. You hear its truth. But there’s that part you don’t say out loud. Really, lady? Because I just sat in a doctor’s office waiting room with three kids under five for an hour and fifteen minutes and I’m quite certain I’m now seventeen years older. Or better yet: “Great. Let’s test that theory. I’ll be by your house in twenty minutes and you can keep them for an hour. Then we’ll discuss how fast it’s going.”
Hostility aside, it’s beautiful and true and always good to hear. This idea of enjoying it is swirling around my head because I’ve been thinking about how much I want to heed the sweet grandma’s advice, and how difficult I find it to do so. Enjoying it: is it really possible? How do you enjoy a moment when it is very necessary that you think about all the little things that will need to get done in the moments to follow? Can you really enjoy something you are so responsible for? The lady lounging poolside on a Caribbean Cruise with a good book and a pina colada is enjoying it. The cruise ship captain? I’m not so sure. He’s steering the ship. There is a lot resting on his shoulders. But I’m thinking maybe. Maybe it’s hard for him to feel the ocean breeze and taste that island attitude and not find a way to enjoy it while still steering the ship steady on.
Number two in my mind swirls lately is my own actual grandmother. Her name was Eva Pease and she passed away this week. Her wake and funeral were both well-attended by family and friends who loved her dearly and what I took from all the tales told about “Nana” in those few days was the reminiscence of how much she enjoyed it. When I remember her, I remember the million little moments she spent with us: pushing us on swings, baking cakes, playing cards and dominoes. I remember more than anything her presence to the moment, like there was no were else she would dream of being.
Nana was a wife and a mother who loved the Lord and that was her life’s business. She was an old-time, from-scratch, cleanliness-next-to-godliness, bigggg-family-meals, Jesus-loving, Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher with an autoharp. And she was a true lady. I treasure my memories of going to church with her. Nana’s Sunday Best wasn’t its best without the slip, the dress, the hose, the heels, the gloves, the hat, the pearls and the lipstick that she would sometimes let us wear. Church was no joke, y’all. And neither was family dinner. She found her place in the world loving God and serving family and nothing seemed to matter more.
I know she enjoyed it not just because everyone said she did, but because I was there. She kept an impeccably clean house but she didn’t mind letting us mess it up a little. The simplest things to her she treated as the most valuable pieces of life: an Easter dress, a pan of biscuits, a sprinkler in the yard. I want to enjoy my family like Nana did, but I get so caught up in the task work of being a mom that I often miss the moments. I feel overwhelmed by the to-do lists and all the tedious, menial things. And then I get overwhelmed too by the big, lurking, looming things. I’m too busy thinking about everything from bedtime tonight to potential therapy sessions based on my inadequacies as a mother tomorrow to enjoy what’s happening right now.
So on to my theories of how it might be possible for a mom like me to enjoy these little years: maybe I just need to try doing it like a grandma. And how does a grandma enjoy her family? Like. A. Boss. A grandma isn’t worried about getting all the dirt off the floor right now. Right now is for baking the cakes and playing hide-and-seek. A grandma knows (from experience, which is a luxury we don’t really have yet) that the little things don’t matter that much, that everything is going to be fine. I think there’s a little measure of that that I could use a little more of. Things will get clean and they’ll get messy again. What my kids will remember is what I remember now about Nana: time spent present to them in the moments.
But reality check. I’m not the grandma. I’m the mom and the dirt does need to come up. The discipline does need to happen. I can’t be all candy and swing sets over here. Structure is necessary. Rules are survival. But I can imagine my grandmother even in her days with her own little children truly enjoying it and here is my theory as to how. Nana had settled herself down into her life as a mom. That was the business she was about. She wasn’t looking outside the four walls of her vocation for anything more. Her life was putting away laundry and cooking family meals, dressing kids for church and teaching them to read and finding Jesus hidden in the midst of it all.
It’s just not possible to enjoy these moments with a mind that is elsewhere. Guilty as charged. I often get lost in thought about what life would be like in a nicer house, with quieter kids, outside of these lovely maternity clothes. And then I miss all these moments that are meant to be enjoyed. See that’s the deep gift hidden in this vocation: Jesus is here in the moments, in the day-to-day. That’s where He is. That’s where life is. And that’s what Nana knew. In a million simple things: fruit delight cakes and cast-iron skillets of hot, white cornbread, she left a legacy of great, great love just by being present to her own life. When you do that, you find Christ. You live in His rhythm and that’s how you enjoy it.
Last theory: you have to laugh. It is so crazy. I mean, are you with me? Raising kids is insane. So we just have to laugh. I listened to Nana tell the story so many times about having me at her house as a little girl and finding me in her pantry, covered in Crisco (which was always in plenty). She thought that was the funniest thing ever.
And as for all the ways that worry steals away your moments, all the many ways that the mind of a mom can wander…
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
So I’m off now to my attempts to enjoy this. I look at their faces and like the cruise ship captain I think there’s no way to not. It’s just too beautiful not to enjoy. Sure, tomorrow might hold hours of therapy sessions centered on me and that one time I dropped him on his head during a pretty raucous family dance party to “Uptown Funk” but today…today we are carving pumpkins. What’s not to enjoy?
Copyright 2015 Kelly Pease
Photo: Boxing Grandmother. Dough Berry. via Getty Images, CC