Everyday my children wanted to go to the beach on vacation. Everyday.
That meant everyday of rubbing sunscreen thoroughly all over their squirmy bodies. Everyday of lugging beach and sand equipment for what felt like over a mile to our choice spot. Everyday of coming home to a shower to get sand out of every crevice, while I'll never completely get it out of the car.
But the memories are sweet, I'd remind myself. And the giddy look on their faces would make me want to pause time. And the confidence they'd show in the water through simple swim strokes would make me believe they can do anything.
Keeping that motivation in mind, I sighed a deep breath and got ready for the days' events one morning. After I got my boys lathered up with sunscreen, they played ball on the deck while I started to apply my own.
"My back is always so tricky - it's very hard for mommy to get," I said under my breath, as if to excuse the funny way I was moving to try to get every angle of my fair skin.
Yet at that comment, my older son put his ball down and came over. "Mommy, can I help you put the sunscreen on your back?" he said unprompted.
Surprised, I bent down. I was expecting a hasty, messy application, but I wanted to encourage his thoughtfulness. But my son surprised me. He proceeded to apply sunscreen to my back in thorough, gentle strokes for over five minutes. "I'm doing three coats, Mom, to make sure you don't get burned." As I felt his little, sticky hands do their very best, a tear came to my eye.
This is the son who made me a mother. This is the son who inspired the care I give my children every day, the care that felt like a scary privilege with a newborn in my arms to what now often feels like second nature. As I felt his hands dance across my back, I remembered giving them their first kisses as chubby fists.
This child who I am so used to caring for was now caring for me. He was helping me. He was expressing his love with maturity.
I was so glad I took the time to receive his offering.
While the day's work loomed in my head, I had stumbled upon a moment that made it all worthwhile. And this is usually how it happens. Parenting is a constant juggle between the tasks that must be done and a willingness to let them go and savor the moment. Sometimes we ignite ordinary moments into something special. Or sometimes we just have to allow the space for them to happen.
Why is it so much easier for us to honor those moments on vacation? Is that one reason we look so forward to vacation?
I loved not living by the clock last week. I loved the freedom that came from the mantra: "We'll get there when we get there." Yes, I know daily living can't always be that way. But one thing I'm sure of is that the work will always be there - even on vacation. Yet the special moments and the heart-felt offerings will not.
It makes me believe that we all need a little vacation weaved into our everyday. In Handsfree Life, Rachel Macy Stafford says, "This day could either be checked off or it could be lived." While we made memories to last a lifetime last week, I left eager to invite more unexpected ones that are waiting as gifts -- both for the people I love and for me.
Our fond memories include my older son discovering that "life is better on a boogie board."
And after burying my shoes last year at the beach (we only recovered one), my younger son stuck to just burying my feet this year. He still had a blast.
This post is in appreciation for Rachel Macy Stafford's new book, Handsfree Life. The revelation above was a direct result of my reflection upon her work. If you are looking for a book that will help you live a more fulfilled, mindful life, don't miss it! The book is available for preorder now. Rachel gave me an early copy to review -- I am blessed to call her a new friend and fellow HuffPost blogger.