Missing more than life….by Rachel Stafford

My four-year-old recently graduated from preschool. She stood on the stage in her light blue cap and gown and sang songs about growing up and going to kindergarten.  I will admit I cried, but there was something more … something very painful that I had never allowed myself to fully acknowledge until I saw my sweet baby standing on that stage.

As she stood there beaming her beautiful smile, waving and looking directly into my eyes, I felt the urge to fall to my knees.  Thank God I wasn’t sitting at her high school graduation looking at a child I did not know.  Thank God I had not cruised through eighteen years of her life blindly unaware of everything I was missing.  Thank God I had been given a second chance.  Because I had come frighteningly close to missing it all.

You see, I lost two years with my daughter. It was not because of a personal tragedy, an illness, or because I was incapacitated.  No, tragically my two-year absence was of my own doing.  This is not one of my shining moments as a mother, but I share it in the effort that one person reads this and says, “That is me. I am on the verge of losing something sacred that I will never get back.”  This is my story …

When my younger daughter was two-years-old, her older sister went to kindergarten. I had spent the previous five years as a stay-at-home mom moving to several new cities in a short time period, focusing solely on my babies and my family.  So when my older child went to kindergarten and my younger child was no longer a “baby,” I dove into volunteer activities that stimulated my mind, allowed for use of my God-given talents, and engaged me in conversations with other adults … activities I had been desperately missing.  With each successful event I chaired, I felt validated. I discovered an identity other than “Mom.” I was filling a five-year void.  But I took it too far.

And while I was doing good for so many, my family got lost … particularly my two-year-old daughter with strawberry blonde hair who smiles with her whole entire face and sings like an angel.  She is so good, so content, and so “easy,” that she allowed me to shuffle her around to one meeting after another. She patiently tolerated unending workdays with non-stop phone calls, emails, and text messaging.  My child didn’t complain; she never once made mention of the completely distracted and overly occupied lady she called, “Mama.”

My sweet two-year-old just went right along with my overscheduled life, not knowing she was missing the heart, the focus, and the company of her mom.  She had no idea she was being given the leftovers, the worthless scraps of her stretched-too-thin mother.

I had a nagging feeling about how much I was doing outside the home, but I justified my bursting-at-the-seams calendar by arguing that my involvement was desperately needed. I completely denied the fact that these activities were sabotaging my life, my health, my happiness, and my well-being.

And then finally in July 2010, my Breakdown-Breakthrough moment occurred when I finally admitted the painfully honest answer to the question people continually asked me.  “How do you do it all, Rachel?”  With tears streaming down my face, I forced myself to acknowledge that in order to “Do It All,” I missed out on life.  I missed the laughing, playing, memory making parts of life.  You know, the parts of life that really matter.

And with indescribable pain and regret, I realized my two-year-old daughter was the greatest victim of my admired ability to “Do It All.”  In that painfully honest breakthrough moment, I vowed things would change. I vowed I would change.  I started by burning my to-do list.  I made a conscious effort to slow down for a designated time period every single day.  And I began using the word NO when requests of extracurricular duties arose.  But above all, I made it a priority to know my younger daughter, the one I came tragically close to not knowing at all.  And nothing pleases me more than to introduce you to my amazing daughter, Avery…

I know …

She is ticklish right under her chin, in that tender spot beneath her little round face that still holds a soft layer of cushion.  Her upper left tooth is a little crooked from sucking her thumb since she was two days old.  When she laughs too hard she gets the hiccups, which manages to make her laugh even harder.

I know …

She gets this dreamy look on her angelic face when she hears stories about herself as a baby.  She says “meed” instead of “need,” and I can’t bear the thought that someday soon she will pronounce it correctly.  She refers to dandelions as “wishing flowers” and makes the same exact wish every time she blows on one: “I hope I can live in Disney World.”

I know …

She generously offers to help me make muffins and cookies, and then magically disappears after she licks the beater.  She can’t quite get the two-finger F chord on her tiny ukulele but the C sounds like pure heaven.  She listens intently to songs on the radio and looks quite disappointed when she has to inform me of things like, “Katy Perry doesn’t really have a very good voice, Mama.”

I know …

She is an excellent salad maker except for the fact that she eats all the red peppers before they make it into the bowl.  She forms her hands into little balls when she runs.  She gets overly excited when pouring her own milk into a glass.

I know …

She loves to entertain a crowd … the bigger the better.  She voluntarily asks to take a nap when she is tired.  She loves the distinct flavors found in hummus and sushi rolls, but claims toothpaste is “too spicy.”

And I know …

She somehow smells like gumdrops when she first wakes up (even though she refused to use the “spicy” toothpaste).  She sings made up songs and somehow makes them sound like the most beautiful melodies.  She can actually make my heart stop when she wraps her arms around my neck and whispers, “You’re my best friend, Mama.” This list contains a mere fraction of what I have come to know about my beautiful curly-haired girl in the past year.  It is only a fraction of what I will come to know about her in the years to come.

And when my radiant, eighteen-year-old daughter stands proudly at her high school graduation, I can say, “That’s my daughter Avery; I know her. I know every good and precious and miraculous thing about her.”  And I will be grateful for the poignant lesson I received before it was too late, these ten words forever etched upon my heart:

When you live life distracted, you miss more than life. 

Hands Free Mama 2011, 2012 ©

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If you enjoyed Rachel’s post, you can follow this “Hands Free Mama” and her revolutionary approach to letting go and living life by clicking “like” on “The Hands Free Revolution” on Facebook or through her blog at www.handsfreemama.com.

 

 

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