Sometimes I learn more about my children’s day from what I take out of their pockets when I do laundry than from what I can get out of it when I pick them up from school.
The pockets are full of leaves, hair ties and pebbles. My child’s soul appreciates these, the stones with colored lines or the particularly round and smooth ones. I keep them, like offerings, at the foot of the plants in the kitchen and around the house.
But I hate laundry. Folding is the worst. And yet, I had to take those moments and turn them into parts of something bigger. Sorting before washing becomes an investigation. The folding is a time for them to be gofers to take the clothes back to their rooms and mess with me. I had to work to see this change because I hated laundry the same way I hated anything else I worked on – the line people like to say to parents, “Enjoy this time .”
It’s well-meaning, but it’s a phrase usually said to a disheveled mom or dad, perhaps for the first time with a newborn. Well-wishers will stop, nod and just beg you to enjoy this moment, now, to suck it up and be so grateful for this little miracle.
This mom might still smell the diaper rash in her nose. She did not sleep except for about four hours in fits and starts. She’s bleeding clots, her stomach is deflated or her abdomen torn and silently – to the outside world but not to her – is healing after being cut open.
Enjoy this moment. Be here in this now. Enjoy the gasps of air you get from drowning. The laundry pile will never end.
Unfortunately, the well-meaning wish to enjoy time only makes sense after time travel. It comes from knowing that change will follow you forever, because all the things you had have changed. Your laundry isn’t done the way it used to be, with errant parts in a row of washing machines in a moldy room. You can no longer rely on the cleanliness of your back seat for spare passengers. Your jumble of houses rivals the one you dream of, the one with art deco vases placed properly.
You have changed.
Lebanese-American writer Kahlil Gibran’s thoughts on children, from his book “The Prophet,” ring in my head from time to time.
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s desire for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And although they are with you, they are not yours.
You can give them your love but not your thoughts,
Because they have their own thoughts.
You can shelter their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”
I stood there, on the edge of that door, wanting to tell someone with a baby in their arms that they were enjoying this moment. I see the baby with those nice chubby rolls and his wild laugh that sounds like an old man. I see the progression of my life journey through my older children – the lanky cheeks that held baby fat and the pervasive shy laughter that comes from them beginning to debate whether they can truly share their joy in a world so vast.
Enjoying it isn’t necessarily about the moment; it’s about the whole trip.
These are the times when your kids start asking you how your day was with genuine interest, combined with the choking times when you’re not allowed to poop in peace. It’s the long game of travel, and if you’re lucky, you find yourself on a warm beach, watching your kids build their own boats, fill their pockets with the lessons you’ve taught them, and sail to find their own shores.
Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and die-hard Oxford Comma fan. She can be contacted at email@example.com.