Saturday, February 22, 2014

Buried under a happy avalance of activities

From today's Briefing:

This is one of those weeks in which almost every child activity collides.

We’ve got a track meet back-to-back with a band concert.

We’ve got a Girl Scout outing and a Boy Scout dinner.

We’ve got eight Destination Imagination meetings between two children, both of whom will perform at the regional tournament next weekend.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, they will read, finish worksheets and study for tests.

All I’ve got to do is get everyone where they need to be at the right time. And make sure that the correct paraphernalia is packed in the car. And figure out how to fit in dinner around so many activities.

I’m inclined to grumble about it. Until I do some math.

Five years from now Cooper will be completing his senior year of high school. Six years from now he’ll be in college, and the collision of his academic life and extracurricular life won’t really be my concern.

The three of us have less than six years to eat dinners together every night — at least every night that isn’t interrupted by social, academic or athletic obligations.

Less than six years of comparing and aligning daily calendars. Only six more guaranteed identical spring breaks.

All those years of tough stages — the toddling years, the potty-training years, the adjust-to-following- rules-at-school years — seemed to move in slow motion. Yet now those moments seem painfully fleeting, and I wonder if I truly enjoyed them the way I should have, even though at the time I reminded myself to slow down and enjoy the moment.

So now I’m taking deep breaths instead of uttering complaints. I’m embracing the collisions instead of fighting them. And we’re trying to revel in the pauses.

When there’s a break in the schedule, we don’t let it lie. We seize it and walk to the park, grateful for sunshine and warmth after a long winter. We claim comfy spots in the family room and watch ice skaters from Sochi or episodes of Gilligan’s Island.

We talk about what happened during the day. About third-grade freeze tag and seventh-grade practical jokes. About lines of symmetry and the structure of cells.

In the middle of all that commotion, I try to remember to soak in details about life with an 8-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy. The songs they hum without thinking (“Do You Want to Build a Snowman” and “Lean On Me”). The way their backpacks seem to explode within 15 seconds of walking in the door. The reliable request, almost always in unison and almost always half an hour before dinner, “Can I have a snack?”

I’m working on remembering now because I know that in six years, this house will be much quieter, with just me and Katie. And four years after that, just me.

I don’t want to wake up one day in 2024, surrounded by quiet and stillness and a little less clutter, and regret these days. I don’t want to think to myself, “Those were the good old days, and you complained through half of them.”

This week, and perhaps every week for the next five years, I’m arming myself with an extra daily dose of caffeine, some shortcut meals and a positive attitude. I want to remember these moments — these busy, hectic, vivacious moments — with joy free from remorse.

Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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