Day 95: Present

95 days ago, we set out on a 35 day challenge.

To thrive at home, just the four of us. To write and share the stories of our everyday.

It sounds lovely as I’m writing it. But I was terrified and exhausted at the thought–all day, every day, just us, three meals, in the house, no family, no friends, no outings, no playgrounds, no breaks…I didn’t start this journey in a very good place. At the time I felt like the leftovers on a toddler’s plate after lunch.

With all that as the backdrop, we started the quarantine and I started the practice of meditation. Thank goodness.

Step one: setting an intention each morning.

For 95 days that intention has been the same: To be present with my kids. To really be in the room with them–not day dreaming about a far-off place. Because I was sure that if I couldn’t do that, our whole world would crack. If I was miserable, everything would fall apart. You can maybe hide misery when they are at pre-school and put on a happy face for the afternoon, but nobody can hide misery 24 hours a day. And little kids are like dogs, they can smell all the feelings.

It was a desperate voice that whispered, I can’t do this. Somehow I have to find some time…

And it was an empathetic partner who said, I’ll take them from 7-9 every morning.

I exhaled. And the meditation journey began. The commitment to walks and pilates exercises came with it. Everyday, rain or shine, the intention, then the practice, then the blast of fresh air.

This rhythm became my touchstone. I found comfort and perspective and joy in it. And I got to bring all that back with me after the walk. What a difference it makes to greet people flushed, out of breath, smiling. (And usually armed with some nerdy nature story.)

So we filled our days with second breakfasts and snacks, walks and bike rides, with crafts and forts and play-doh and puzzles, the sand box and gardening.

In between one sister would take something from the other, one would break something, the other one would get too close and then screaming ensued. I mean screaming like someone was violating someone else. I have learned not to run into the room so quickly anymore because in reality no one is injured and no one is violated. Usually Little Bean has done something unacceptable in Big Sister’s eyes and has been physically pushed out of the way. Wounded but not easily deterred, Little Bean circles like a predator about to strike, while Big Sister continues protecting whatever toy she feels is under attack. Sometimes impressive negotiations ensue or creative manipulation, but also understanding. Most of the time they end up comforting each other. They hold hands and band together against the evil queen, who said to stop jumping on the couch.

Hysterical behavior emerges throughout the day for plenty of reasons–turning off the television, saying there is no more chocolate ice cream, Saying it’s time to change the diaper. You get the idea…

But frequently I remind myself that to them all of this seems significant. They spend the day sparring for control of what is their entire universe. Trading, sharing, stealing, wheeling and dealing–it’s all earth-shattering to them.

Maintaining control in their world is so important that Big Sister told me a secret: The reason she likes Little Bean to accompany her to the bathroom isn’t because the bathroom is fun together, it’s because she doesn’t want Little Bean messing with her stuff while she’s gone. Ok. Wow. That was not what I expected.

In the meantime every morning I continued with that same intention–to be present.

Finally today, 95 days in– it dawned on me– they live in the moment, they are the very definition of present. I can’t even discuss what we are having for dinner with Little Bean because if it’s something she likes, she wants to eat it right now. Yesterday? Tomorrow? They mean nothing to her. Today, this minute, that is what counts.

Is it a coincidence that my companions for this journey are the world’s leading experts on being present? Did the universe hear my intention and open my eyes to them?

When you believe that everything comes down to this moment, that you might not have another chance at whatever you’re doing–making a cake out of play-doh for example–the blood rushes into your life. It all becomes so colorful, so full.

All this time I thought I was meditating to be present for them, but actually they were showing me how it’s done and all I had to do was sit back and watch.

There are unreasonable meltdowns, periodic tantrums and some generally rude tones. But there days when I wish I could stop time. We are almost at the end of this quarantine road and I’m confident that our little world didn’t crack. No one, least of all me was miserable. And I was there, present, for all of it.

Until tomorrow,

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