It was a rare weekend morning where I was up before our two kids, ages seven and five. I poured myself the first of what would likely be many cups of coffee, and for just a few moments, enjoyed a little silence before the chaos of the weekend would start. Birthday parties, practices, laundry, mandatory fun and multiple obligations — all the things that somehow unsuspectingly clutter our calendars on any given Saturday.
I expected to see my little guy bound into the family room, snuggle up on my lap and tell me about his “cwazy dweams,” but instead I heard his feet pitter patter to the kitchen. I slowly, carefully crept that way with the intention of surprising him.
Instead, what I heard next surprised, and immediately saddened, me.
“Alexa,” he asked the Amazon Echo in the kitchen, “How many days until my daddy comes home?”
“Sorry,” she replied. “I don’t know that one.”
To be honest, I didn’t know an exact date either. Sometime this summer.
I went in and talked to our son and told him daddy would be home around his birthday. He immediately asked Alexa how many days until the day of his birthday. Alexa answered and I saw firsthand my son wishing the time away; hoping the months on the calendar would somehow disappear. That’s not what I want for my kids. That’s not what I want for myself.
What happened to being able to enjoy the moment?
I realized: As military families, we live our lives in countdown mode.
Countdown to homecoming.
To the next deployment.
Countdown to the move, to the TDY, to when our household goods arrive, to when leave starts, when we get to see our families … the list goes on.
Often it seems we are so focused on crossing off the day on the calendar that we forget to enjoy the day.
The days turn to weeks, weeks to months, months to years, and all of a sudden we’re longing for the times when the kids were littler, we were younger, life was “easier.” When was the last time you asked a mom with young children how she was doing? Did she tell you how much she’s enjoying each day and really relishing the time with her kids? Or did she tell you she’s tired, or my personal favorite response that I’m so guilty of using: “Busy, but good!”?
The truth is, we’ve all become so busy that it’s rare to find unscheduled time. My saving grace of getting through deployment has always been to stay as busy as possible. But in that moment in the kitchen, I realized: We’ve gotten too busy. We’re too focused on counting down. Our constant hustle and bustle and rush is impacting our ability to enjoy our time together, to just … be.
During my kitchen epiphany, I realized something needed to change. I needed to change. I don’t want my kids wishing their time away while we wait for dad to come home. I want to create memories and experiences and stories for them to pass on to their kids. I want them to remember me, their mom, as this woman who handled it with grace, not audible sighs and, “Get. Your. Shoes. On. Now. We have to go. We are already late.” I want them to talk about our Friday family nights. Our adventures. Our strength. Our laughs. Not crossing squares off a calendar wanting each day to go faster.
I turned to my favorite resource (Google) for some advice. And has been true since its inception, my favorite search engine didn’t let me down. I came across a blog called The Minimalists, with a post titled, “Be on the Mountain.” Now, regardless of your religious beliefs or if you have any at all, the message is universally applicable. And I loved it.
In the post, they share a story in which God tells Moses to climb to the top of a mountain. So, Moses does and when he finally reaches the top, God commands Moses to, “Be on the mountain.” The author of the post shares, “I imagine Moses responded, ‘I heard you the first time: ‘Go to the top of the mountain!’ Here I am, just as you asked. Now what?’”
They go on to say that the point of this whole parable is that maybe all God wanted was for Moses to just “Be.” Instead of planning his descent or his next move or his countdown to the next thing, to just take a breath and take it in. Appreciate the wonder and the glory and the beauty of the mountaintop.
What a wonderful idea and gift for us all.
I immediately hung a post it note on my bathroom mirror, reminding me to “Be on the mountain!”
Instead of counting down today, I’m going to make today count.