Never Alone

I had a remarkable “ah-ha” moment yesterday. One that perhaps should have been obvious before then, but in the silly simplicity of the moment in which I had it, it finally sunk in. I am not, nor will I likely ever be alone. I am SO lucky.

I was having an emotional afternoon (which I will blame on pregnancy hormones even though they probably had nothing to do with it) and feeling rather isolated. My list of friends has been dwindling over the last couple of years. There are a variety of reasons for this – Hello! We are not in college anymore; lives change; people grow apart; kids enter the equation – restricting time, energy, and emotions; jobs; hobbies; busy . . . busy . . . busy. I do not pretend to be faultless in my predicament, but never-the-less, I am bothered by it sometimes. Particularly at times when my husband, who is my best friend, has to stay at work till 9 or 10 at night and 90% of my conversations over the last few days have been with a toddler whose biggest concern in life is that he HAS to eat broccoli. Enter yesterday’s “ah-ha” moment:

Not wanting to be stuck at the house all afternoon, I loaded up my son and headed to the outdoor mall where my hubby works to window shop, let Aiden see his daddy before bed, and pick up some food. This is a common past time of ours, satisfying Mommy’s need to shop, Aiden’s need to run around outside, and both of our needs to see Jonathan. However, yesterday I decided to break with tradition and actually go in some of the stores – dangerous territory for someone so broke, I know. But enter I did, with toddler in tow. We went into Ann Taylor, J. Crew, and White House, Black Market. And then, since it was only fair, and since he had been so patient with his silly, clothes-shopping mama, I took Aiden into a sports apparel store called Sand Dollar Lifestyles, that I thought he would enjoy a lot more than what we had been browsing. Inside, there was very little that peaked my interest, but Aiden saw something that completely rocked his world. He didn’t know what category to put them in. Shoes with TOES in them, like gloves!

He kept saying, over and over again, “What’s THAT?” I would tell him and he’d ask again. I figured the best way to satisfy his curiosity was to show him. So we sat down on the bench, measured our feet with the funny rubber foot measurers, and tried on some toe shoes. He stood on the floor giggling hysterically as he pointed at my feet, “Wook, mama!” I would laugh right back at him and tell him to look at his own silly feet. And then it happened. I looked at him as we both sat on the bench trying on shoes, and I realized – I liked hanging out with my son! As a person, an individual. He is now old enough to be a companion and a friend and we have fun together. No longer just a bundle of need, he gives back. Granted, he still takes a lot more than he gives, but he gives! The moment I had this realization, I spoke it out loud to him. “I really like spending time with you, Aiden.” And he replied, “I like you too, Mama!” And I was not alone. I may not be able to have deep philosophical discussions with him (yet), or rousing debates about politics and religion, or toss around ideas about parenting and hobbies, but we can have fun. We can inspire one another to be happy. And that is what’s important. Yes indeed, I am very lucky.

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Helping Hands

Have you ever noticed that children are extremely apt and ready to help one another when they are in need? They have not yet learned to be cynical and wary of others. They see a need that they can meet and they jump to fulfill it. For instance, if Aiden is at the park and unable, due to size or age, to overcome an obstacle, another child will, perhaps shyly, reach out his hand and offer assistance. I have seen this simple and beautiful gesture time and time again. And when it happens, Aiden will excitedly exclaim, “Mommy, he helped me!” On the other hand, if an older child, who has begun to learn that sense of self-righteousness that we all seem to attain as adults to varying degrees, refuses to help or turns his back, Aiden will look at me confused and almost hurt, not understanding that what is natural to him does not come naturally to everyone.

And it is not just other children that these little ones are prone to help. Their desire does not discriminate by age. Whenever there is something that needs doing, like the dishes or sweeping the floor, cooking supper or carrying groceries, I hear the constant refrain, “Mommy, I wanna help!” I must admit, I sometimes see this eager offer as an annoyance, knowing that his “help” will actually be more of a hinderance. It is sadly ironic that now, while he is extremely willing to help, he is not very capable and when he becomes capable, he might not be so willing. But I know that if I let my annoyance show, I will only aid in the development of his cynicism. So help me he does with undeterred enthusiasm.

As I have said many times before, children sometime make the best teachers. I count myself blessed to learn such wonderful lessons from my son on a regular basis. I am humbled by his simple, unassuming, and poignant nature that seeks out the positive and finds wonder in the smallest of things. And what a lesson this is! If we, as adults, had a fraction of the helpful attitude of children, how much happier would our lives become! Because rather than seeking to serve ourselves most of the time, we would be actively serving others and, in turn, countless people would be serving us, doing far more than we could ever do for ourselves. That is what communities are all about.

A Date to Remember

Recently, my husband and I stepped back in time for a few hours on a date that was both nostalgic and present-affirming. Although most of our fellow date patrons, having a median age of about 60, were probably not affirming the present so much as reliving the past. The date consisted of a matinée movie on an old and rather pixellated projector. It was shown at the local planetarium that has most likely not been updated for decades. They were serving locally brewed beer and classic candy in the lobby as they waited on us to take our seats before starting the movie. And to top it all off, the movie itself, ‘Midnight in Paris‘, was directed by none other that Woody Allen. If that doesn’t inspire nostalgia, I don’t know what will. But the irony of the whole experience was that the message of the film was about not living in the past. So many of us tend to view our own generation with the opposite of rose-colored glasses.  We eye each other with a cynicism that loudly exclaims how much worse we have it now than they did back in the day. How many of us have sighed and thought to ourselves that we were just born in the wrong era. If only we could experience the golden age of (fill in the blank). Or perhaps it’s not a time period that you covet so much as a location. If only we could live in Paris!  The air is pink there and music fills every street. Inspiration would flow freely and unabated and life would be so much better than it is here in (fill in the blank). But the truth is, as the film so beautifully illustrated, life is what we make of it. Despite how it seems sometimes, the grass is not always greener elsewhere. Generations prior to us also believed that they had it much more difficult than the generations prior to them . . . and so on and so on. If we are constantly envying people for their position or place, then we fail to see and experience the things that people will envy us for later.  This is the central theme of my blog. Learning to appreciate and really live now the things we’ll reminisce about later.  And then, when we do reminisce, it will not be a wistful longing for what might have been, but a happy remembrance of what actually was.  ‘Midnight in Paris’ was such a beautiful illustration of this idea that, although I could never claim comradery with such a brilliant man as Woody Allen, I felt it was to the world of film what I aspire this blog to be for its genre.  If you haven’t seen it, make every effort to do so.  It will make you smile and appreciate your life for what it is and not for what it might have been or could be. 

A Little Gratitude Goes a Long Way

We all long to feel appreciated.  We want to know if other people recognize that the things we do are important.  It is integral to our happiness in all of our relationships, from friendships and marriages to employers and children.  And today I learned, from a very simple source, that a little gratitude goes a long way. 

For the past three years, since we have lived in our current house, we have had the same garbage men.  They come every Monday and Thursday to collect our waste and take it away.  I cannot imagine a much more thankless and disgusting job.  And yet, I must admit, that for those same three years I have harbored a slight annoyance at them – simply because they were careless about where they left our can.  Sometimes it would end up down the street a bit, often several feet away from the lid.  And I would always grumble about why they couldn’t just put it back on the curb.  All that changed when my son became fascinated with “Dump Trucks.”  From our kitchen, we can hear the truck coming around the block and for a half hour every Monday and Thursday morning, I hear the repeated exclamation, “Mommy, the DUMP TRUCK’s coming!”  And as it get’s closer and louder, he says with surprising urgency, “The dump truck!  I need to go see it!”  And we will stop whatever we are doing, sometimes covered in breakfast, and go marching outside to see the dump truck.  We wave emphatically and, because I am trying to teach my son to be polite and grateful despite the grumblings in my own mind, I tell him to say thank you loud enough for them to hear it over the din of the truck.  All three of the men have come to recognize us and smile broadly as we walk out the door.  The driver “beeps” his horn, and one of the collectors always waves and gives thumbs up.  Today and for the past several weeks since we began thanking them, the garbage can was placed nicely on the curb with the lid on top.  I never said anything to them about it.  It was just a natural response to kindness.  It made me wonder how often these men, who do such an amazing service for us, ever receive thanks.  Of any kind.  I intend to continue thanking them long after my son’s fascination wanes.

And then I began to consider all of the other unappreciated jobs that people do for us on a regular basis and how rarely we stop to thank them and make them feel like what they do is important.  Too often we feel entitled to services we would never perform.  Security guards at shopping centers.  Check out clerks at grocery stores.  People working fast food windows.  Entergy service technicians working at midnight in a storm.  The doctors and nurses at public clinics who even work holidays.  If we wouldn’t want to do their jobs, but we utilize their services, shouldn’t we be much quicker to show gratitude?  And not just to people doing jobs we don’t want to do, but also to those closer to home who do jobs we would have to do if they did not.  Like a spouse’s trip to the grocery store or afternoon spent folding laundry.  Or a child’s willingness to pick up their things when asked, or a colleague sharing the workload on a big project that could never be finished in time alone.  I think we’d find that we would get much better service with a much bigger smile if we found small ways to regularly say thank you.  And we may even make someone else’s job a bit easier and their day a bit brighter.

A sweet message of gratitude from my husband that completely transformed my day.