When I was in high school I worked at an old fashioned General Store. Today I recalled something a regular customer discussed with me. An older man, in his seventies, was talking about his regrets in life. Some were small, (jobs,friends) others were large( health,time with family), but he kept saying that he regrets not “soaking it all in.”
It’s that phrase again. I hear it all the time, in reference to motherhood and teaching, and everything else in between. While in college, I heard it from those already in the workforce, eluding to the fact that I was one of the lucky ones still within the safety net of collegiate life. When I first started teaching, it resonated through the halls from seasoned educators, “remember these days!” And now, more than ever, as a new mom I am forever told to “soak it all in.”
I get it, and I know that no one has ill intent, but it starts to make a girl anxious! It has always been difficult for me to be very present. I often find myself mechanically going through the motions of daily life, only to find that my mind is already two steps ahead, pacing through the coming hours, days, or weeks. My husband’s query of “you okay? What’s wrong?” can be heard at least once a week. And typically I feel just fine, but I have that distant look that betrays me. (I used to pose for an artist, and on more than one occasion he asked me “where are you right now?” He said he wanted to capture that faraway look, so I guess from an artists perspective it’s a good thing) I enjoy life, but I have always been very busy and over- scheduled and have developed a comprehensive internal dialogue, at the expense of my external expression, apparently.
To that end, I have put a lot of pressure on myself to soak it all in since becoming a mom. It has never seemed so important as it does now. While every school year starts anew, and I know I will always have the chance to do things over again (albeit not with the same students), the first few years of your child’s life are fleeting and you will not get those times back. I was consumed last school year with the fact that I was missing so many of those moments. I became almost manic for a time, trying to “be present” at school and also at home, while simultaneously falling behind on data collection/analysis and lesson planning that is essential to stay on top of work. I became so overwhelmed as the work piled up; not wanting to sacrifice a minute of my time with Belle to catch up, but too exhausted to stay awake after she fell asleep each night to devote much time to any one task. The result was a constant restlessness that caused me to-you guessed it- not be very present.
Luckily, this time was finite. Between a mentor at work and my husband and family, I was able to get myself refocused, re-organized, and start to really enjoy that precious time. Which brings me to this present moment, in the final week of summer vacation before I have to leave my baby girl again. I know I did it right because I do not feel the dread or anxiety I used to. I really, truly remained as present as possible this summer and relished my time as just ‘Mommy.’ The fact that the time is fleeting doesn’t scare me anymore, because if you are able to enjoy where you are at the moment, you don’t fear missing it all later on. Each phase of life is exactly as long as it needs to be. That “newborn” phase is wonderful, but could we really handle that for much longer than those first weeks? Hell no, I’ll take my 8 hours of sleep, thank you! If you can learn to enjoy the time you have right now, soaking it all in no longer becomes a daunting task that you have to think about doing, you just suddenly have all of these memories of moments you soaked right up, and you feel full and content knowing how much you all enjoyed making them. It isn’t the easiest thing to do, but the more organized you are, particularly at school, the better off you will be. I know there will surely be times this year that I will fall prey to the pressures once again, but here’s hoping I can remember to enjoy the crazy days at work with my latest crop of kids, and make the most of my evenings at home with my family. As I prepare for the onslaught of inquiries about my first real summer with my daughter, and the inevitable “did you enjoy every minute?”, I am happy to say that I can honestly answer, “Yes, I soaked it all in.”