Wednesday, May 4, 2011

There Will Never Be Another Moment Like This

(The photo is one of my mother and I when I was a little less than two years old.)

In honor of Mother's Day on Sunday, I'd like to share a gift with you that I got from my own mother. It's a moment in time that has stayed with me my entire life, has shaped who I am, and has helped me through some potentially rough times in my own experience as a mother.

I was 3 1/2 years old and we were moving again. This time to Germany from South Dakota. (My father was in the military.) I don't remember if everything was packed yet, but I do remember that the pictures were all off the walls including my mother's prized almost life sized Elvis clock. My mother was pregnant with my little brother and she was lying on the ground, my father stretched out beside her. I sat across from them. I remember that they were both in a good mood and the only light was from a lamp. My mother's hair (normally a brownish color) was glowing reddish in the light and my father had taken off his glasses (which is rare . . . like me, he is completely nearsighted and needs his glasses for everything). My mother was wearing a torquoise sweat suit and my father was wearing his fatigue pants and his undershirt. If I close my eyes, I can almost see how young they were and I can almost reach out and touch their happiness, it was so palpable. Most of my memories of my parents when they were younger are of their joy with one another.

Still, I probably would have no memories of that night if the following had not happened. It was almost bedtime and I am sure that I was arguing that I absolutely did not want to go to bed. (After all, I never did want to go to bed.) I'm sure the comment arose organically, but try as I might I can never recall what exactly was the impetus to which my mom was responding. What I do remember is this: She turned to me, fixed her bright green eyes on me and said, "You know, Shawna, there will never be another moment exactly like this. You shouldn't push it away by being angry. You should fix it in your memory and enjoy it."

I said something to the effect of "bedtime comes every night" and she said, "Bedtime may come every night, but this moment, right now, will never come again. There may be many like it, but there will never be this one again. You have to enjoy the moment while you can, because once it's gone, it's gone forever."

I remember I wanted to argue with her, but then I thought about what she said. I thought about bedtimes and how even if you did everything the same, even if you read the same stories and wore the same clothes, something would always be different because it would be a different day. You would be a day older. The thought awed me. I'd never thought of time as something that passed never to come again, as something that you should try to hang on to. I told myself that I would remember everything about that moment because a memory was all I would ever have of it and that is why I remember what we were doing and what my parents looked like that night. The years have softened the details and even some of the exact words, but I have stubbornly clung to all that I could of that night that I learned that there will never be another moment like now.

Whenever I catch myself feeling overwhelmed by life or motherhood, whenever I catch myself wishing away the present or anxious for the future to happen, I try to revisit that moment when I first learned just how fragile and transitory time is.

Frequently, remembering that lesson has given me a chance to really embrace moments in motherhood that I may have otherwise thrown away. For example, when my son was about ten months old, he started wanting to give me kisses as he was supposed to be nursing to sleep at night. He'd nurse until I thought he was almost asleep and then he would suddenly pop off, open his eyes and sit up to kiss me on the nose or mouth. It sounds cute, but he wouldn't just do it once or twice, he would do it like twenty times. Around the seventh or eighth time, I'd start thinking to myself, "alright kid, seriously, you need to sleep," but then I would remember my mother's words and I would try to treasure the moment knowing that even if there were going to be more moments like it, that kiss, that moment was only going to happen once and it was up to me to embrace it and remember it. The phase passed and almost every night a part of me wishes that it would come back. (After all, who can ever have enough sweet baby kisses?) It hasn't and it won't (although, if I'm lucky, another, similar phase will happen again one day), but I can rest assured that I embraced every kiss he wanted to give me as the irreplaceable moment in time it was. My mother taught that to me and one day, I hope I'll find the moment and the words to teach it to my son. I also hope that you can take my words and they can remind you of when you first learned this lesson. Let it anchor you, the way I try to let it anchor me. Don't let the river of time wash away your irreplaceable moments Thanks, mom and Happy Mother's Day.

Anyone who is reading this, are there tender moments you'd like to share (either with your mother or your children)? Please, feel free. I'd love to hear them!


Carla said... [Reply to comment]

I adore this post. I remember when my first was brand new and we were sitting in bed. He was asleep in my arms and I started to cry because I knew that this was the moment I would remember when he was 18 and leaving off to college or getting married or having his own children. My second boy too loves to give me kisses when he's supposed to be going to sleep. I'll never think of it the same way again. Thank you for this post.

bethany actually said... [Reply to comment]

When my older daughter was about 1, she started doing something adorable that I tried to fix in my memory each time she did it. Before she would nurse, she would pause and smile at my nipple, as though greeting an old friend. It was so hilarious and sweet.

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@Carla Thank you so much for sharing . . . I'm so relieved I'm not the only one who has cried about my baby leaving college when he was a newborn. My husband thought I was crazy!

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@bethany actually I wish there was a way to save those moments . . . I know exactly the kind of look you're talking about. Currently, my son is 21 months old and he loves to give me raspberries when he nurses. I wish there was some way to bottle up the magic of the silliness of those moments!

Michelle said... [Reply to comment]

Omg this made me cry... Motherhood is tough and I'm always reminding myself to embrace my two little girls, than becoming frustrated if nap time does not go as planned. Thank you for this post:-)

Bob & Kelli H said... [Reply to comment]

Oh, this is so sweet. I was just in bed with my 2.5 year old daughter last night and she rolled over to ask for milk. I said, "OK sweetheart," and she replied, "I love you, Mom. Sooooo much." I wish I could hold that little moment in a locket and wear it on my chest.

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@Michelle Oh, Michelle, sleep is always an issue around here! I know exactly what you mean. That's why I keep using that memory so often in our house. I don't always succeed in being the zen mama I want to be, but gotta keep trying, right?

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@ Kelli: Awww, you made me tear up, too! I love moments like that!

Rosie said... [Reply to comment]

What an awesome tribute to your Mommy and Daddy, and to women everywhere! To the women who out of desperation, become inspired with the most profound words! LOL! I shared this on my facebook page. Your words brought tears to my eyes. You colored that moment in time so vividly, I felt like I was there too...with you hearing your mom and feeling the 'happiness'. That is so rare. More often when I read I feel someones pain, or the heaviness, anger. To feel your childs heart and the smart way you processed her words. Pure joy. Thank you and Happy Mothers Day!

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks, Rosie! I do write about painful things from time to time, but I really try to always look for the silver lining when I can. I try to be matter of fact about the challenges of parenting, while still looking for the tiny gems that make it all worthwhile. Thanks for reading and for sharing!

Kate Ogden said... [Reply to comment]

Wonderful. Beautiful. Needed. Thankyou ;)

lovenotesmama said... [Reply to comment]

This is a beautiful post! When my daughter does something that particularly gets my heart fluttering I too want to bottle the moment and wear it around my neck... being conscious of these moments is SUCH a gift. What you wrote reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:

"We get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really . . . .
How many more times will you watch the
full moon rise? Perhaps twenty? And yet it
seems limitless."
-Paul Bowles

daryleverett said... [Reply to comment]

I linked this post in my blog. It was timely for me.

daryleverett said... [Reply to comment]

You are definitely not alone. I do it too. Like now....THANKS! ;)

Daryl Everett said... [Reply to comment]

Oops that was supposed to be I cry too but the reply link didn't work out.

Madigan said... [Reply to comment]

Shawna- I got a link to this post through the mommy board I visit!! You're getting around girl!! Since having Z, I've really tried to step back and savor the moments, knowing he's our last baby, watching Lola learning to be gentle, it's all so endearing, yet fleeting. Thanks for this post.

Sara B. said... [Reply to comment]
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sara B. said... [Reply to comment]

Also, when baby #2 was born I bought a journal where I write sown little snippets of funny or cute things my girls do. I know we will love reading it as a family when they are grown.

I've also just started a blog as a way to talk about those really tough times with humor. For instance, our disastrous trip to Sesame Street Live. Maybe it will give you a laugh:

Sara B. said... [Reply to comment]

Oops! I erased first comment by accident!

Sweet things I try to remember...the sound of my 3-year-old skipping through the house first thing in the morning, and the way my baby smiles whenever one of us talks to her. Sometimes I just get the overwhelming feeling that this is Life!

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@Madigan Oh, Madigan! That means a lot coming from you! You are one of my mommy inspirations!

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@Sara B.Thank you so much for sharing and I'll definitely have to check out your blog!

Stephanie said... [Reply to comment]

I often remind myself of this principle at bedtime. :)

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@StephanieThat seems to be a good time for me to use it, too!

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