We are currently on our first vacation in three years. It's also our first vacation since having children. I no longer spend hours reading on the beach, but right now I am sitting on a porch overlooking the ocean while both my babies nap. It's a new type of vacation. Not less, just new. I'm grateful. We took the boys down to the beach this morning and I noticed a familiar look from the older couples around us. It's a look that says "we've been there" and "I miss those days." I watched the woman to my right interact with her husband. Some of you may recall how I processed a few of my postpartum insecurities recently. Those thoughts fresh in my mind, I glanced down at my still wrinkly and stretched out belly and then looked on with admiration towards the woman to my right. I think it's safe to assume that she also carried her babies at one point, and now they are grown. She's alternating between reading a book and napping with her feet in the water, something I used to do and something I'll do again one day. She and her husband smile at us with that look.
My eyes wander behind the couple and land on three teenagers sitting with their parents. I grew up on this beach and seeing them brings back memories of me trying to "tan" and hoping to catch the attention of some teenage boys nearby. That was always unlikely though, given the close proximity my loving father maintained....all. week. long.
I watch the teenage girl sitting next to me and remember what it felt like to come on vacation with my parents and sister. Time meant nothing as I stretched out under the sun from breakfast to dinner. I watch them and realize that I am giving them the same look.
When women smile at me juggling two kids in the grocery store...when couples stop and laugh because Ian is cheering for ice-cream...when they shout out a quick "how old?" to us while passing by...they aren't thinking, "Man, those kids are exhausted." I'm pretty sure they are thinking "I remember that"..."I wish I could sit with my babies for lunch today"..."I wouldn't trade places with her, but I do miss that."
I was recently struck by this thought as I noticed smiles from several women while I tried to feed the oldest one at a restaurant. I knew they were remembering meals with their kids. And it made me settle. I stopped rushing through lunch and planning out the rest of my day. I just sat with my sweet boy, allowing him to take his time. And when I let go, I found that I enjoyed that meal tremendously. I loved even the smallest details and I wasn't in a hurry to leave. My patience increased and my tone softened.
Since then, I have been left with thoughts about embracing our lives and holding them with open hands. It is from this place that I hope to offer encouragement. We don't know what we don't know. Once we move past our present circumstances, we will always view them differently. So embrace it now. Be grateful for it now. Don't wish it away.
It's nothing profound and it's been said before. I can name at least three country songs with the exact same message. But sometimes it bears repeating so that we don't forget.
If you are younger, wishing to be older and on your own, be still. Be grateful. Your day of independence will come and with it a new set of adventures and challenges. You'll never be in this place again, so enjoy it while you're here.
If you are single, longing to be married, I'm not going to tell you to not be frustrated or "your day will come". I would never want to belittle your story with such a trite statement. What I will say is this, there are freedoms and experiences you can enjoy now that will change when you are married. So embrace those places.
If you are tired from life with tiny people, I hope I can remind you to embrace the long days and the little moments. They only come around once, so let's welcome them while we can. Even in exhaustion.
I don't know anything about the next stages of life, but I'm guessing the message is still the same. Where ever we are, there is always someone further down the road who knows a lot more than we do. And it seems that they will always tell us to slow down, be grateful, and enjoy the moments we are fortunate enough to be experiencing today.