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Today's Family Magazine

MOMMY CHRONICLES: From counting down the days to making the days count

It is difficult to know when it will be THE last time you engage in a particular activity with your child — like playing a game. So make each time count!

By Stacy Turner

Often, especially during the holiday season, we can slip into the pitfall of viewing time as something to be counted down, like kids counting down the days until Santa arrives.  As a child I remember the anticipation as each day dawned closer to “the big day.”  Now that my kids are older, I’m feeling like the opposite is true.  These days, it feels more like time shrinks in opposition to the many priorities and activities necessary to squeeze into hectic days.  And in the back of my mind, I wonder how many more holidays we’ll spend together like this, as our kids begin to find their places in the world.  With that mindset, it’s easy to miss out on what’s happening in the present moment.

As parents, it’s common to record all the “firsts” of our growing children, but not so common to make note of the “lasts.”  We may not realize it will be the last time they hold our hand while walking to the park, or that when they start reading, they no longer ask us to share a bedtime story.  It can be difficult to know when that last time will be THE last time.

In ordinary times, but especially during the busy holiday season, it’s easy to focus on getting ready for the next thing as we count down our days.  This year, my goal is to try and make the days count.  My goal is to be present and appreciate what’s right in front of me. 

When my girls were tiny, many seasoned parents shared that although the days of having small children can seem endless and exhausting, those years will fly by before we know it.  And as the days, weeks, months, and years began flying by, I’m learning firsthand what those well-meaning parents meant.  And I realize that we tend to remember the big things, like the first step, first tooth, and first haircut.  But what happens to all the other smaller moments, as we move forward to the next big thing?

In looking back in my phone’s camera roll, I see snapshots of some of those moments of this soon-to-be-ending year.  Big events and small trips meld together with unfiltered shots of everyday life, scattered over the last 12 months.  Without the presence of those images, some of those details would surely be forgotten.  I wonder how much of our lives have passed by, unnoticed and unphotographed as we moved ahead?

From a hands-on mom of little ones to the mom of young adults, each successive year my kids have needed a bit less of my help and a bit more space to grow.  This, I think, is how our role as parents is meant to be.  We slowly work ourselves out of a job, or at least transition into more remote work as our children learn to stretch their wings.  It’s a bittersweet transition to watch, let alone participate in.

In the meantime, though, I’m trying to enjoy the time we still have together.  I’m making the effort to be more present in these moments, and I encourage you to do the same.  Because I’m usually better with words, I’ll be keeping track of special memories throughout the coming year on slips of paper.  That compliment I received, the hard-earned grade on a test, a silly “dad” joke that made us groan.  Tickets from movies and concerts, a seashell from the day at the beach.  All of these artifacts will be collected in a jar we’ll make a point to open and enjoy at this time next year. 

And while there’s no way to preserve every minute, it’s my hope that with this intention, we’ll remember and appreciate more of those small moments that made up another wonderful year.