Yesterday, after a solid week of non-stop laughing during my sister’s visit and after dropping her off at the airport far too early in the morning, I came home to three sad girls. We have waited forever for Aunt Kelly to visit us. We counted down for over 140 days and were so excited to see her, and then in a wink her week was over. Boo.
All throughout the week in the midst of crafts and sewing and leisurely afternoon naps (yes, we ARE party animals), Alli kept asking Aunt Kelly one question.
“How many days til you go, Aunt Kelly?”
At first it was cute, but after the twentieth time it became a little weird. It was like she was rushing our precious visit! Then yesterday, after I got home from my sad airport drive, Alli said,”What’s next, Mommy? How many days?”
For a minute I just stared at her annoyed. I wanted to sit back and enjoy the glow of an awesome week with my sister and, to be honest, just be a little sad that she was gone. Alli, on the other hand, had already in her weird little way moved on and was ready for the next big event. I was also sad. I know she’s only three, but I want my kids to learn to really enjoy these special moments.
But I couldn’t be annoyed for too long because I know exactly where she gets it.
I live my entire life in countdown mode.
I start counting down to Christmas months in advance. We start counting down for our birthdays the second Christmas is over which continues for four months. My head counts days until Josh leaves for deployment, and my heart counts moments until he returns. We countdown for family visits, last days of school, first days of school, and every single holiday. In fact, to counter a tantrum she had when her birthday party was over I told Alli, “Don’t be sad! Aunt Kelly will be here in eleven days!!!”
You see, countdowns are a coping mechanism for me. When I am sad or bored, I like to have something to look forward to. Only 21 school days left to summer! When I need a motivator, there’s always a deadline. Only 7 days until the next FRG meeting! And sometimes countdowns give me perspective. Only x-number of days until he leaves again ….
So as much as I want my kids to learn to live in the moment, I am my own countdown monster.
And I’m not the only one. If you go to Google or Pinterest and search “countdown,” ten zillion fun craft projects will pop up. There are websites devoted to counting things down, and yes, there is an app for that. This morning I searched “christmas countdown,” and there were 41 million results. It’s like the whole world is focused on some point in the near or distant future.
But I wonder what is being missed right now. While I’m busy counting down to the big things coming later, am I missing the little things right now? I have three kids; I know how fast they grow. So I wonder … while I’m counting down to the last day of school, am I missing the everyday Monday? While I countdown to Christmas break, am I really enjoying the parties and crafts and ugly sweaters that lead up to it?
Yesterday I started a schooldays countdown on my kitchen chalkboard. I pinned a half-dozen summer fun activities. I started a list of things to do before our first summer barbecue. I was really excited for summer. I kept picturing all the fun things we will do once we get past the next 21 school days. Today it dawned on me that I was skipping over the most exciting time of the school year! Last field trips and end of the year parties. Field day and TWO graduations in our house (elementary school and junior high)! How can I possibly count past so many great days!?!
So this morning when Sydney updated the schooldays total, I asked her a favor. “When you get home today, I want you to tell me about the best moment of your day. Recess? A fun lesson? A yummy snack? Whatever it is, I want to know what made TODAY special.” And I am going to try to do the same. I am going to try to focus on my activities today to find something amazing or sad or beautiful or maybe all three. I’m going to try to take each moment as it comes, see it for the miracle that it is.
Because as quickly as the 21 days until summer vacation will pass, so will the three years until Aubrey graduates …
And the two years until Alli goes to kindergarten …
And the mere months until my Sydney becomes a middle schooler …
I won’t stop counting down. It is a good coping mechanism for me, but I am going to try to focus on each number more than the final day. Because while that final destination is always fun, I know that all the days til we get there are pretty amazing as well.