Don't Blink

What does it look like to pay enough attention to your children? 

As a new parent, you’re given one piece of advice more than any other: don’t blink. Don’t miss it. It’ll go faster than you think. The days are long, the years are short. It’s hard not to resonate with that wisdom, because there’s truth in it: the passage of time is a constant that none of us can avoid.

I’ve always been a pretty conscientious person. I want to do the best thing, the right thing and whenever our class was being scolded by a teacher growing up, I always took their disappointment deeply to heart, even though I was rarely the culprit. So, when it comes to this season of parenting, I’ve been eager to heed the wisdom of parents further down the path. But, in trying to obey the guidance of the parents who’ve gone before me, I’m often left with a growing concern: am I enjoying it enough? Am I paying enough attention? Am I blinking too much? 

I asked myself those questions this past week as I watched my children playing in our backyard. They’re playing together more than separately, making up their own games the way all children do. We’re not having to coordinate the activities the way we did even earlier this year. They can all swing on the swingset without being pushed. 

My first baby is 7 years old. Seven years feels like a lifetime and a minute. In one more of those time spans, she’ll be a teenager, and in another, she can buy me a drink. The brevity of childhood looms over me some days. Other days, the phase of the moment feels like it will never end, but it will. 

Early in my parenting journey, I read Glennon Doyle’s book, Carry On, Warrior. In it, she writes about the philosophy of “carpe diem” being fraught for parents (for anyone, really). Seizing each day means that each day is worth seizing, and quite frankly, some days as a parent are just garbage. Instead, she invites the reader to “carpe kairos,” seize the best, most wonderful moments.

The philosophy of “carpe kairos” has been a part of my parenting philosophy ever since, granting me the grace I needed to shake off the tough moments. But, there’s a missing piece in even that. Sometimes, it’s not the “kairos” moments, it’s the normal in-between things that I want to notice. 

The way my youngest lisps or the way my four-year-old sucks her thumb extra hard when she’s nervous or sad. Those small things we take for granted are nothing special on their own, but they’re the details that make up the landscape of my children’s childhood. They’re the sorts of things that I may forget until one of my grandchildren does or says something in a way that sparks a memory. They’re the details we’ll miss if we blink, but we have to keep blinking.

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Colleen Cook works full-time as the Director of Operations at Vinyl Marketing in Ashland, where she resides with her husband Mike and three young daughters. She's an insatiable extrovert who enjoys finding reasons to gather people.