As a mommy to two little girls, many of my moments are brimming with to-do lists from every tense — past, present and future. When I first sat down to pen this post, the intro went something like this: “I’m still playing catch up following our travels and ailments…” I was then going to regale you with a paper-bowls-for-preschoolers tutorial, until I realized that the phrase “playing catch up” had suddenly become a main player in my mommy jargon. I’ll add it to the list of sayings that I unwittingly embraced during motherhood, alongside “believe it or not,” “ooh Je!” (translation: oh, poor baby, are you okay?), “did you brush and wash?” and “it’s calm-down time.”
While in the shower this morning, I wiped away condensation from the calcified glass door to watch K in her swing. Her soft legs, streaked with orange and brown marker (evidently not washable), hung limply from her relaxed body. Her heavy eyes closed and opened as she began to succumb to sleep. A nap was in motion, so I quickly conducted a mental rundown of all of my yet-to-be completed tasks. I carefully considered what I should prioritize during K’s no-more-than-20-minute doze. I stared back through the glass. She had swapped out her pacifier for one of those heart-melting dream smiles with which newborns win the world over. It occurred to me that I’m not in fact engaged in a perpetual game of “catch up,” but rather living in a present that includes a stream of mostly arbitrary due dates. What am I catching, anyway?
Throughout the day, I kept wondering how I might remove this whole “catch up” mentality so as to better sink into the now. I worried about the magical, messy mountains I might be missing by working so hard to turn them into molehills. I thought about how I should try harder to be present, try harder to really see my girls and quiet my mind. Until it hit me. This is the present. In my adulthood, I’ve never been in it more fully. My little girls jolt me back to the here and the now with every spill, every tumble, every tear, every question, every diaper blowout, every tantrum, every hug, every story, every song, every disorderly art project. I might never abandon my to-do list or assume a carefree attitude toward the upkeep of my home. But it doesn’t really matter. Because it won’t stop the unforeseen demands that accompany each successive moment. This relentless and unpredictable routine is parenthood. And every noisy path leads to here.