School days are numbered. Our count is down to four.
Cooper, who is finishing his first year of high school, has been announcing the daily number for a couple of weeks.
I had been listening and nodding most mornings, until finally I could stay silent no more.
“Cooper, I might sound like an old person giving advice that isn’t relevant, but I’m going to say it anyway.
“I know you’re ready for the school year to end, but try to soak it up. When you’re focused on how many days you have left, you’re less likely to enjoy the actual day you’ve got.”
He arched his brows and smirked slightly.
“It’s true. Soak it up.”
Then I hugged him, grabbed my lunch off the counter and rushed out the door.
I’ve lived by the mantra “soak it up” for years, but it’s usually for the really good stuff.
Like when Katie was a baby and I ignored housework during her naptimes, opting instead to snuggle my second-born child (based on first-born experience, reminding me how quickly babies grow). I would lie on my back, Katie draped across my torso, close my eyes and listen to my daughter’s breathing.
Soak it up, I told myself. This won’t last forever.
It’s the same when I’m at the beach, any beach. I lie on a towel, squish my toes in the sand, close my eyes and listen to the relentless waves and squawking birds. I fill up my spirit with as much beachy goodness as possible, hoping to store enough memories to tide me over until my next visit. (I’m way overdue.)
Soak it up, I tell myself. You don’t know when you’ll be back.
Lately, though, I’ve been reminding myself to absorb all the moments — not just the obvious ones.
Like crisscrossing Frisco more than once in afternoon traffic to get Cooper to and from a band competition and then to and from an engineering presentation. Soak it up.
Or staying up late to keep him company while he studies for a comprehensive humanities exam over the Renaissance. Soak it up.
Because, much like those blissful baby days, these days won’t last forever, either. We may want to rush through the tough stuff, but when our goal is simply to survive the rough days, we’re missing the gems hidden all over the place.
All those trips in the minivan with Cooper give us extra time to visit about school, friendships and pop culture references I don’t yet understand.
Late-night study sessions allow me to brush up on Romeo and Juliet and debate whether or not the Shakespearean play is a tragedy. (We don’t agree, though I suspect Cooper is more informed than me.) For that matter, we debate the mere existence of Shakespeare altogether.
Parenting a teenager isn’t breezy. There are moments when I ache to hold tiny, sarcasm-free babies again. When I would much rather be on the beach. Any beach.
Yet being parent to a teen isn’t a lifetime commitment. There’s a built-in expiration date, and, based on past experience, one day I’ll probably be nostalgic for the teen years.
Yes, we have four days of school left. Yes, we’re all looking forward to summer break. But I’m not wishing away a single day. I’m soaking up the early mornings, the late nights and all the minutes in between, allowing them to flood my soul with the everyday moments that make up a full life.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.