Rejoicing in Relaxation

Last week we spent a few days in Dallas with our son and his family. We had been hoping for warmer weather, and Texas obliged us for the first couple of days, enabling us to take some nice walks in their neighborhood.

Our grandson is a walker. He eschewed the stroller a long time ago and doesn’t much care for his tricycle. I having a feeling he’s going to prefer his own two feet for transportation - at least until he gets a set of four wheels and an engine to move him from place to place. 

One afternoon he decided we needed to take a walk to the park and check out the fountains in a large estuary pond. His mom was taking a much needed afternoon rest, so the two of us set out on our own. Connor kept up a steady stream of conversation all the way to the fountains, which I’d estimate is at least 3/4 of a mile. We spent some time discussing the state of disrepair of one of the fountains, a subject he finds endlessly fascinating. We watched the ducks waddle around (the ducks in Texas are HUGE, like everything else in this larger than life state), and counted people going by on bicycles.

About halfway home, I could tell his short legs were getting tired. Heck, MY short legs were getting tired. We had reached the playground opposite their subdivision, so I suggested we take a rest. We found some large boulders and sat down to watch the kids at their games.

Connor scooted up close to me and popped two fingers in his mouth, his little security habit. We sat in silence for about 10 minute, just observing some older boys and girls hanging from the balance bars, riding their bikes around the paths, climbing trees. 

“Isn’t this nice?” Connor said. “We are just relaxing."

“It is SO nice,” I agreed. What could be better than to sit quietly in the sun with a three year old who was happily content to watch the world go by?

Another 15 minutes went by, and I admit I was starting to get a little antsy. That rock was not the most comfortable sitting spot, after all. “Are you ready to head home?” I asked him hopefully.

“Not yet,” he said. “Let’s just keep relaxing."

I shifted my hind quarters around a little bit and got myself as comfortable as possible. Connor started a running commentary about the cars going by, identifying each one as belonging to one or another of his menagerie of stuffed animals. “That’s Ping’s car right there,” he said, pointing to a Jeep Cherokee driving down the street. “Ping is coming home from work. Harvie will be coming soon. And then the scooters will be coming out at 17 o’clock."

We continued our “relaxing” for about 10 more minutes. “Let’s go see Mommy now,” Connor suddenly announced, so I unfolded myself from our relaxing spot and we finished walking home with renewed energy.

As any grandmother will attest, these are the kinds of moments that are as precious as gold. We weren’t doing anything, we didn’t have any books or toys (or ELECTRONICS!) we were just relaxing and enjoying each others company. This is so rare in today’s world when we always feel the impulse to be busy doing something productive or else choose to connect ourselves to outside sources of entertainment. But everything is endlessly fascinating for little kids - the fountain that doesn’t work, the ducks that come begging for bread crumbs, the bigger kids hanging off tree branches and teasing each other. Even the steady stream of cars going by can spark their imagination. 

That’s what I want more of in my life - that willingness to slow down, take it all in, observe and notice and wonder.  I suspect there is a lot of time within my daily routine that I allow to be sucked up by “busy work,” the kind of stuff that’s akin to the mimeographed worksheets our elementary teachers used to hand out when they were sick and tired of us and needed a few minutes to regroup. 

My new goal every day - relax more. I don’t want to plan it, I don’t want to schedule it, I just want to recognize when there is an opportunity to revel in it and not allow myself to succumb to the call of the internet or the laundry or the cooking or the shopping or the bill paying.

Of course, it won’t be quite the same without my little companion by my side, or our nice rock to sit on.

But I’m going to rejoice in it all the same.

How about you? Do you take time to really relax each day?

Second Chances

One of the party favors at my recent "Grandma-to-be" shower was a sampler packet of "Teabags for Nanas," from the Bag Ladies Tea Company. Each tea bag has a little saying on the tag, and I was amused by this one on my mid-afternoon cup:

A Grandmother is a mother who has a second chance.

There aren't any real do-overs in parenthood, and, if you're the parent of an only child, you don't even have the opportunity to rectify any of your mistakes with subsequent children. So as I sipped my tea, I couldn't help but think - if I had a real second chance at motherhood, what would I do differently?

First and foremost, I'd try not to be the parent of an only child. I don't think there's anything wrong with being an only child, and only children turn out to be perfectly normal people. But since we're all only children in this family, it would be nice to have a few more people in the mix -it occasionally gets lonely at the top of the family tree. And after seeing how much our dog Magic enjoys having a "little sister," and how much we enjoy having the two of them around, I wish we had added another human child to our family when we had the opportunity to do so.

I also would have encouraged my son to be more adventurous and take more risks, try more new things. We're all introverts in this family, and it's easy for us to settle into our safe little corners and pursue our own particular passions. I wish I had pushed him outside his comfort zone a little more insistently. I always tried to make sure he knew he could do whatever he wanted to do in life, whether that meant being a trash collector (that was an early dream of his), a Registered Tax Return Preparer or a doctor. We didn't care if he took the LSAT or the tax preparer exam - as long as he was happy with what he did.

It sounds trite, but it's true - I would have played more and cleaned less. We've all heard the old adage a million times - they grow up so fast! You simply don't have any idea how fast until they've gone and done it. I wish I could take back all the hours I spent cleaning house and use them to read stories, play Candyland or make "recordings."

But even though I'm totally stoked about being a Grandmother, I don't feel like baby Connor is giving me a second chance at motherhood. He belongs to his parents, and the child-rearing successes (and failures) are for them alone to make. No, I'm more excited about getting a first chance to be a Grandparent and developing with him that special relationship I had with my grandparents. I'm excited to take part in all his accomplishments, to watch him grow and develop his interests, to share stories about his family history and what the world was like in the "old days." I want to always be that extra margin of safety for Connor throughout his life, so he knows there's another loving heart and another pair of helping hands if he needs them.

And if I have a chance to do those things, I'll have all the chances I need.

How about you? If you're a parent and could have a "second chance" at anything, what would you do differently?