Have you ever taken your kids to a place where you all had an unexpectedly magical experience? The kind that makes you want to go back as soon as possible to try and recreate it? A simple adventure in which you were truly present in the moment?
Once a week, my family has Park Day.
One of our favorite parks to visit has a huge playground, a skate park, open fields, a 1-mile trail, and a summer farmer’s market. We usually let the boys run free as we walk the trail, trying to get in a little exercise ourselves.
On one of our recent free-spirited walks, we ended up at a small gazebo next to a large rock — nearly 5 feet tall. Our 3-year-old scaled the rock like a future climber as the 1-year-old climbed the stairs of the gazebo, exploring every crack and watching every bug with great curiosity.
I followed the younger one as my husband spotted the older as he climbed. They were so completely enthralled in their activities that my husband and I were able to do a few squats, pushups, and lunges. In between exercises, we made up silly songs, we marveled at the wildflowers found, and we applauded our little climber.
To the outside eye, it was probably nothing particularly extraordinary.
But our family had stumbled upon a magical moment.
We called our gazebo/rock paradise The Sweet Spot.
The following week we went back to the park — this time with my parents visiting from out of town. We started the loop and told them, “We’re taking you to our magical place!”
Along the way, it was:
“Ok, enough picking flowers, we’ve got to get to the Sweet Spot!”
“Let’s wait to have a snack until we get to the gazebo.”
“Don’t climb right there. We can stop and climb on the rock when we get to our special place.”
We hustled and bolted and barreled through the trail to get to the end.
As we approached our Sweet Spot, we saw bright orange fencing surrounding the area. The gazebo was completely gone. We could see bits of it in a dumpster by the parking lot. The big rock was inside the fencing, out of our reach and no longer climbable.
We stood in awe. Our Sweet Spot was no more. And only one week after we discovered it.
I felt simultaneously sad and super special — like I had been allowed in on some mystical secret that only a select few have the privilege of knowing about. Something that you do once and then it disappears like it was never there.
As we stood there gaping at the empty space, all I could think was: “There are so many things to learn from this experience.”
The one that rang out clearly?
Be present in the moment.
We hear this all the time, and therefore, it feels a bit cliche to say it. But I rushed my kids through a lovely walk through the park, discouraging them from stopping to pick up a flower or stopping to watch some other kids playing soccer. I ignored a good chunk of a present moment because I was looking ahead to a future moment. And that future moment didn’t come.
Not only did I miss out on the journey, but the big payoff that I missed it for didn’t even exist.
It also hit me that the amazing moment we had at The Sweet Spot the first time around — we had it because we were being completely present.
We were soaking up and savoring the tiny details of life.
There are times to look to what’s ahead, and there are times to reflect on what’s behind. But don’t get so caught up in time traveling that you miss what’s so perfectly right in front of you.
As we stood there looking over the orange fence, my 3-year-old tried to make sense of what had happened. Why didn’t our expectations match the reality?
“What happened to The Sweet Spot, mom?” he asked repeatedly.
Finally, after several attempts at giving him an answer, I gave one that satisfied him: “The Sweet Spot isn’t the place, buddy, it’s right here within us, in our hearts.”
Do you have a good story of a lesson learned from your kids? Please share it in the comments below – we’d love to hear it! And here’s another post you’ll love: The Ultimate Guide to Motherhood.