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Savor the Moment

On Second Thought
By Mary Zahran

Just recently, I was at a park walking laps when I saw a young woman with a little girl who looked to be about two or three. The toddler, seemingly excited to be at the park, was struggling to climb the steps to the slides. Deeply engrossed in her efforts and determined to get to the top, she was repeatedly interrupted by the woman, who insisted that she look at the slide’s frame and identify the different colors on it.

She continued her interrogation: “Amanda, what color is this? Is it yellow? Is it green? Tell me what color it is,” she demanded as she pointed at the frame.  Amanda began to answer her, but suddenly decided that she would rather direct her efforts at navigating the steep steps than identifying colors on demand. She finally climbed to the top and slid down, completely oblivious to the woman’s relentless questions.

Don’t misunderstand me—I am all for “teachable moments.” As a mother of two daughters, both long past the toddler years, I appreciate the opportunity a parent has to encourage curiosity in children by using the world as a classroom. I remember as a matter of course frequently pointing
out clouds, rainbows, butterflies and colorful sunsets to my children as we went through our daily routine.

In fact, one of my proudest moments as a mother occurred in the parking lot of a grocery store late one afternoon as my younger daughter and I walked to the car. Stopping dead in her tracks, she pointed to the magnificent sunset above us. I knew then that all my efforts at “pointing things out” had come to fruition in my child. I believed then, as I believe now, that hers would be a richer, fuller, more engaging life because she had learned to pay close attention to this wondrous world.

However, I also believe that some moments in life should just be. In addition to teaching our children to observe life, we should also teach them to savor it, to let some moments simply unfold, free from meaning or purpose. We grown-ups are forever wringing our hands over our hurried, overscheduled lives, but we don’t allow ourselves, much less our beleaguered children, the opportunity to sit still and do nothing. Every single moment has to be filled with at least one constructive activity, or better yet, two or three. Multi-tasking has become an enviable skill, not something to be avoided.  We can’t even sit at the park and enjoy a beautiful day as we
watch our children play. We have to read a book, check our email, organize our schedules, send a text or update our Facebook page. We seem almost incapable, perhaps even afraid, to be completely present in the moment, with no other physical or mental task to perform.

Perhaps we can learn a lesson from our children if we take the time to observe them and how they go about their lives. Maybe the teachable moment will then flow from child to parent rather
than from parent to child. Young children know instinctively how to live in the here and now, how to give every action their full and undivided attention. That approach may well explain why their reactions to every event are so very intense, from their unbridled joy when splashing in a mud puddle to an explosive tantrum when a toy breaks. Each of these moments holds not only their complete attention, but all of their emotions as well.

They haven’t yet learned the adult art of compartmentalizing their lives.  Long before my younger daughter taught me to pay close attention to sunsets, my older daughter taught me a lesson about savoring the moment.

In fact, we were in the same park where I would later witness a toddler ignoring her mother’s color interrogation. We spent a perfect autumn afternoon climbing trees, swinging and lying on our backs watching the clouds go by. As we walked home hand in hand, I looked down at her happy little face and thought that I had just discovered the true meaning of the word “serenity.”

So the next time you are at the park and want to quiz your little ones on their colors, numbers, shapes or sizes, do the smart thing and resist that urge. Instead, step into their world for just
a bit and watch in silence as they immerse themselves in the beauty of an autumn day or the dizzying delight of being pushed in a swing.

Let them teach you how to savor life. You will never learn a more important lesson.

Mary Zahran lives in Fayetteville and still watches sunsets in grocery store parking lots. She can be reached at maryzahran@gmail.com.