Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Living Out of the Moment

New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Anna Quindlen recently wrote an essay titled “On Being a Mom”:

I've got two separate copies in my email inbox so far, as various mothers weep over the words and forward the column to their 300 closest friends.

It is, of course, a lovely essay describing Quindlen's feelings about her three teenagers. I like her description of the independent people she raised, the now-obsolete parenting books she devoured, and the weirder mistakes she made.
(Thank God I'm not the only one who's ordered McDonald's from the drive-thru and driven off without the food.)

But I'm afraid Quindlen started to lose me with this quote:

“But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough.”

Now I'm the first to say “Gosh, yes, you gotta enjoy your children, or what's the point?” I'm having a good time programming my own little robot (er, son) with all my strange interests, from Bugs Bunny to Jupiter's moons. But when I find myself reading another parenting column that says “Live In The Moment,” I start to get a little testy.

Because at the moment Ron's working late and I have a cold and Benny's lying on the sofa screaming because he dropped one of his 4 million little Thomas trains. And somehow, imagining myself 20 years from now, weeping over a dusty shoebox filled with Thomas, Toby, and Harold the Helicopter isn't helping one bit. But I still dig the little red engine (James) out from under the sofa and help Benny build a bridge over the Crevasse of Doom (the space between the sofa cushions) and peace reigns once more. At least long enough for me to gulp some DayQuil.

One gal I know recently had the nerve to mention that she nurses her 2-year-old sometimes and frankly, she's getting sick of it. Immediately another mother began spouting how she'll miss nursing one day, she should enjoy this last part of her daughter's babyhood, etc. Suitably chastened, the first mother just nodded tiredly.

I myself felt unqualified to comment, not only because I didn't nurse my baby, but because I often celebrate Benny's milestones with almost indecent glee, stopping only short of ritual bottle-burning ceremonies.

So we mothers need to be a little cautious throwing that “live in the moment” line around. I can't help but feel its wisdom, but it needn't be another source of guilt. Every mother treasures something different with each child. I myself confess to an unhealthy attachment to Benny's tiny baby T-shirts. They no longer fit Benny, of course, so I put them on his stuffed animals, which make them look quite casual and sporty, in my opinion. And maybe I'll keep a few tiny trains - especially Toby, my favorite. Let's just say he's square.


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