So here it is. The greatest advice on how to find the quintessential moments in life: Stop Looking.
They can not be created.
I used to think they could. I planned epic holidays and perfect vacations. I will never forget the first time we took Emily to Disney World. She walked around the center fountain and stopped in her tracks. “It’s right there, mom! Cinderella’s castle!” It was outstanding. I cried. It was a rare quintessential moment – for me. She doesn’t even remember it.
About a year ago, Emily turned to Mesfin and asked “Have you ever been to Disney with us?” She couldn’t remember if our trips predated his adoption or not. I think it’s safe to say that if her memories don’t contain a clear focus of her brother, I’m probably not at the epicenter of her memories either. She recalls rides, princesses, and food, but at any given Disney moment, I was not giving her the lifetime experiences that she needs to remember to live a full life.
Right now we have a foster kid staying with us. Big D. He’s 8 years old. He doesn’t know how to roll dice people. Or add 4 + 2. Or pee into my toilet. Or how to ride an escalator. These are the things he would know, if there was someone to invest in the every day little tiny things of life. When Big D arrived he started to wet the bed again. Big D has no sense of security. A trip to Disney will never solve that.
Every year at Christmas Will gets a little panicked because we only give them each 3 gifts and he’s concerned his particular needs won’t be met. (He is somewhat high maintenance) I simply respond with “Have you ever been disappointed at Christmas?” I don’t list all the stuff he has, or what we got him last year. I ask him to recall a feeling, a sense of security that we have been able to give him. I do this a lot with my kids. When Emily gets mad and says something like “You never listen to me!” I will later revisit that just to reminder her of what the truth is – I do listen, often. I don’t tell my children everything that I do for them. I remind my children of how their life feels. We are there for them, and they know it.
When I was younger I had grandparents and then I had the other grandparents. You know, the ones that lived far away and only came to visit once or twice a year. My kids don’t have a set of “other” grandparents, even though my parents live 4 hours away. That’s because they show up. It may only be a weekend or they may come along on vacation with us. It doesn’t matter the event, just that they do show up AND THEN they roll dice, go up and down escalators, read books, and just plain do life with us.
Those are really the quintessential moments. The things that take no effort. All 5 of my parents kids are showing up Nov. 1st for an Iowa football game. It happened organically, with little planning. They are beyond excited that everyone is together for the first time in years. Maybe they’ll take a family picture. At Christmas they might just have 3 of us. They are beyond excited that 3 are willing to show up. Because that’s what parents do. Instead of waiting for the moment that is perfect for them, they open the door and say “Come as you are. Bring your baggage, your issues, your ten thousand children and even your stupid dogs. I will accommodate you. Because I want to do life with you.” They don’t keep track of how many years it’s been since everyone was together or who called first on their anniversary. (which is good because I don’t remember to call at all on anniversaries)
As a parent, you cannot wait for the perfect moment. “Oh honey, won’t it be great in 2018 when we take all the kids on a cruise?” Because that just might not happen. Instead, tonight while doing 4 hours of homework, I’m going to take a picture. Then when we sit down to dinner, I’m going to videotape that event, fights and all. I will save these mementoes so that the next time I’m looking for a quintessential moment, I can remind myself exactly what a quintessential moment really looks like.