The comfort of the typical day, the normal, even the boring—it’s a luxury we don’t appreciate enough.
When I was growing up, my parents always made a big deal about birthdays and holidays, which always involved multiple parties, many traditions, and even more gifts. As a result, I used to put a lot of stock in big events and major milestones, needing them to be special, standout, full of wow moments for me to tuck away in my memory bank.
As the “big events” have piled on though, my enthusiasm for them has started to wane. That’s not to say I don’t still love a good party or holiday celebration—I can be like Mary Sunshine with my monkey-face cupcakes and Christmas pajamas and frantic picture-taking. I’ve just stopped giving the “milestones” as much weight as I used to. I’ve stopped making them the be-all, end-all. I know, it sounds like I’m some Scrooge, pissing all over everyone’s good time, but far from it. I should probably explain…
When I became pregnant for the first time, I immediately called all of my loved ones and best friends, eager to share my excitement. Two weeks later, I learned that I was going to miscarry and, among my myriad of feelings, was a sense of shame over my own eagerness. This is what I get for making such a big deal out of this, I honestly thought to myself.
When I found out I was pregnant with my twins, I absorbed the news more tentatively, gently. There were no phone calls to friends and family, no celebratory cheers with sparkling apple cider. It was quiet, and it stayed quiet for several months, until I felt it was “safe” to once again share my news. Although my friends and family expressed just as much excitement as they had the first time around, the experience of it had fallen flat. There was no creative announcement, clever onesie to the grandparents, hopping up and down with glee—it just was.
After a healthy, non-eventful pregnancy, I delivered my twins via c-section. I remember the sweet nurse holding both of my hands as the anesthesia traveled through my body. Before the tingly numbness reached my belly, I felt my baby boys kicking inside me for the last time, and I cried as my body went dull. Everything after that was a blur.
I’m going to spare you from having to hear yet another birth story, but let’s just say, it wasn’t pleasant. I was shaking and scared and out of it. Yes, I remember seeing my boys’ faces for the first time, watching one of them reach up and grab the scissors being used to cut his umbilical cord. I remember the excitement in my husband’s eyes, and feeling jealous that I wasn’t a part of it. Here I was, giving birth to my children, and I just wanted it to be over. So much for that magical moment where my heart bursts open and bells rings and I experience real love for the first time. It was nothing like that.
As a mom, I felt sure I would remember every major milestone. I wouldn’t even write down when they first rolled over or crawled or talked because it would be ingrained in my memory, right? Not really. Because all of these things sort of happened gradually, over time. I don’t know what their first words were because, wait, was he really saying “Mama” or just making noise? Did he just crawl or was that more of a scoot? It’s as though all of these big markers in my children’s lives were just sort of rolling in, without any bells and whistles, before I had a chance to get the camera.
They never really had a “first day” of preschool because they were in a toddler program and, one day, the teachers just said I could leave and get coffee. Was that their first day? Should I have savored the moment? I took pictures of their first haircut and they got a balloon but, really, was it anything more than a photo op? Last week, we took our boys up to the snow for the first time, but they both got sick, and I never got to build a snowman with them or take them sledding. Can I have a do-over? I’ve taken great joy in planning every birthday party for my boys, but despite all of my efforts, it goes by in a flash. Every holiday goes by in a flash. Every year goes by in a flash.
So, now that I’ve been at this parenting thing for a few years, I’ve finally realized something: Life is not about all of the big events and the milestones. It’s not about the firsts or the parties or even the holidays. We all know that those major moments often come with expectations that can’t always be fulfilled. Of course, the weddings and births and reunions and anniversaries are all incredibly special, and worth celebrating. But they’re not everything. They’re not what life is about.
No, I think life is what happens in between all of the hoopla. It’s the small, seemingly insignificant moments, the non-events, the flood of feeling that comes when you least expect it.
With my kids, it’s the moments I watch them hug with such fervor that they knock each other to the ground. It’s the way they run into their grandparents’ arms, or climb into their great-grandma’s lap while she sits in her ever-present recliner. It’s when my son calls for me in the middle of the night, and I hold his little body against mine, knowing these opportunities are fleeting. It’s when they make pizzas in their chef hats, dump too many chocolate chips in the cookie batter, or insist on trying my kale salad, and painfully chew, pretending to like it. It’s when I see one of my sons share with the other, check in on the other, help the other, showing an empathy and sweetness that I know is rare in boys so young. Of course, I remember the birthdays and the milestones, but they pale in comparison to the small moments that warm like the sun, and are the hallmarks of their young lives.
So, yes, you can view your life in highlight reel, the perfectly-shaped events, the photo ops, the red pen points in your calendar. They’ll always stand out in your memory because, well, they’re big, and hard to forget. In the meantime though, I think it’s important to hold on to the small, but mighty moments. The comfort of the typical day, the normal, even the boring—it’s a luxury we don’t appreciate enough.
Our lives are studded with these bright, shiny markers that light our path, and give us something to look forward to. But, I think, the true journey is in every little step we take along the way.
Jennifer Benjamin is an LA-based freelance writer and editor with over thirteen years of experience writing for national magazines and websites like Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, SELF, Parents Magazine, The Stir and Daily Glow. More important, she’s a Mommy to identical twin boys, as well as an avid cook, a terrible housewife, and a loungewear enthusiast. Find her on Twitter @JennyBenjamin or Facebook.