Posts Tagged ‘moment’

Hyla, like most children, just loves Christmas.

If you’ve never been with a child on Christmas morning then I highly recommend it. It’s a morning filled with delight, discovery and new found treasures. Up at the break of dawn, Hyla made sure that we were all up, too. Doors started to bang. Something “dropped” on the floor. And before we knew it, the whole house was up.

Her Mom said, “We’re going to have a nice breakfast and then we’ll open the presents.” Hah.

If you have children then you know that life is filled with moments when you find yourself wondering just who is the parent and who is the child? If we actually thought that we were going to set the agenda for Christmas morning then we had another thing coming. Breakfast? Hyla had other plans, which, of course, meant that the first order of business was to attack the rather large pile of presents that were stacked under our most beautiful Christmas tree.

We let her dutifully go to the tree and select each present, one at a time. Of course, it came as no surprise that the first present she picked was the one that I have been teasing her about for days.

“What did you get me for Christmas this year, Daddy?” “It’s pink”, I smirked. “What else?” “It’s small.” “What else?” “It has a white circle.” “And?” “It has your name on it.” “DADDY – WHAT IS IT?”

She started to guess. And guess. And guess. This went on for days with me saying “No, no, no” each time. On one guess she actually got it right but there was no way I was going to spoil this surprise, which I was quite proud of.

So, when Christmas morning rolled up I knew for certain which the first gift opened would be. Hyla has been coveting my iPod for years and she has been such a wonderful girl this year (and every year) that I decided it was time to get her one. And there it was, her own Nano, pink with a white circle and her name engraved with a message of love from me on the back.

Squeals of delight, eyes big as saucers and a big kiss and a hug for me. Worth every penny.

Now, what I didn’t expect was the speed with which she moved on to the next present. Maybe I was deluded but I really imagined that she would explore this gift for at least a few minutes before moving on to the next. And the next. And the next. But within ten minutes the pile of gifts under the tree had got smaller and smaller and the pile of paper and ribbons, larger and larger.

When she was done she began to attack the pile of gifts, trying to decide where to focus her incredibly short attention span. A few minutes with Barbie. A song on the IPod. A moment with a stuffed animal. It was an ADD-like orgy of laughing, playing and exploring.

Over the next 24 hours Hyla quickly adopted a toy as her new favourite and would then move on to the next. For those few minutes that toy was the center of her world and then, in the next minute, something new commanded her attention. It was as if the first favourite no longer existed.

Anyone who’s been around a 12-step program will be well familiar with the concept of “one day at a time” or one hour, or one minute at a time. It’s a coping strategy designed to help people who obsess about the future or the past without being able to focus on life’s nexus – the present.

Hyla’s life is all about the moment, whatever that may be. Whatever is in front of her is her whole world and yesterday and tomorrow don’t exist for her. And I find that is one of my biggest challenges – staying in the moment.

When I succeed, I am at my happiest. In the moment, I find that I can extract the most joy out of any situation because that’s all there is for me. When I’m obsessing about tomorrow’s challenges or yesterday’s mistakes I tend to miss out on what’s before me and that’s always where my life is – right there, in front of my eyes.

As adults we have many responsibilities and sometimes it’s impossible not to plan or to consider what the next challenge is. But one of the reasons that I so enjoy spending time with Hyla so much is the way that she forces me into the moment – her moment – and there I am, right with her and there’s nothing else for miles around.

A very wise piece of prose suggests that yesterday’s mistakes are beyond our repair and that tomorrow’s challenges are yet to come and I think that’s true. But how do we stay focussed on today’s events without letting our minds wander? How do we hold true to the moment – whatever that may be?

We can’t abandon our responsibilities but we can stop ourselves from obsessing about them. If we are always focussed on tomorrow’s agenda or on yesterday’s errors then we are missing what’s most important – our lives as we live them. And at the end of the day that’s where we gain the most purchase – in enjoying our plans as we live them, not as we make or regret them.

Whatever the formula, Hyla’s got it figured out and for that I admire her greatly. It’s effortless for her and it makes we wonder how and when I made it so complicated. A child’s world is a simple place and maybe that’s where the answer lies.

For many years, when I was younger, I was a magician and I used to marvel at how easily kids could figure out a trick. They knew the coin was in the other hand but adults were always looking for the trap door, or the mirrors, or the rope and pulley system that made the trick work. The very fact that they made it so complicated made them easier to fool and that’ still true today.

In the New Year I resolve to try and keep it simple, to keep my world free of the clutter of tomorrow’s burden’s and yesterday’s errors. Hyla loves her iPod and when she’s playing with it she’s full of the joy of the moment and for that I envy her greatly. There’s no reason why we can’t keep our lives uncomplicated and clutter free and at the end of the day, we are probably our own worst enemies in that regard.

I will try to keep both feet anchored in today and, if I’m successful, there’s absolutely no reason at all why every morning can’t be as magical as Christmas morning was this year. One day, one moment, one present at a time.

She just puts things down.

Whenever she’s finished with something – her sunglasses, her hat, her iPod – she puts it down wherever she is and walks away to the next moment that has grabbed her attention.

Not surprisingly we spend a great deal of time looking for stuff. “Where were you the last time you had it?” “I don’t know.” “Think.” I don’t know.” So, far, we mostly find everything but it’s never easy. At first I invested most of our time searching our surroundings like a possessed person. But I have learned that it’s much more efficient to watch her more closely when she’s using one of her oft lost possessions. And when she put its down – on the table, in the bathroom, on the bed – I pick it up and put it somewhere where I know where it is. And then I try to be clever by letting her look around a little before I make the big reveal.

I thought it would teach her to be more careful. Hah. All it did was to teach her to now ask me when she’s lost something. As if I’m now in charge of knowing where everything at every minute of the day. Of course, the alternative is to let her just lose these things, some of which are not only expensive but also precious to the world of a nine year-old. And that’s never a pretty scene. And that’s because there’s no concept of responsibility – only loss. You would think that the pain of the loss would modify her behavior but, no. She still just puts things down.

So I tried something new.

I tried to teach her the concept of place and belonging by showing her that each one of these things has a place where it lives all the time, and every time she finishes with one of these things it always goes in the same place and that way she will always know where it is. So, dutifully, we indentified all the things that go missing regularly and then established homes for them. Especially her new iPod which is oft used, not cheap and much beloved.

So the next day I’m tidying up the room and I notice that the iPod isn’t around. Triumphantly, I seize this moment to re-enforce my point while secretly hoping that it’s not gone forever because I really don’t want to deal with that. So I say somewhat suggestively, “Hyla, do you know where your iPod is?” I am, of course, expecting the usual panicked look of sudden realization of loss. Instead, very calmly, “Of course Daddy, it’s in the place where we decided it lived!” And then she calmly goes over to the suitcase, unzips the side pocket and smugly hoists the iPod aloft.

I am dumbfounded.

When I tried to teach her about place and belonging I thought it would be like many of the other lessons I try to teach. It often takes a few goes before it takes. But when I couldn’t find the iPod I never even thought to check where it was supposed to be because it never occurred to me that it would actually be there. They just keep surprising you like that.

And about the way she puts things down – there’s a lesson in that, too. The reason that she is able to put it down and move on the next location or activity is because children mostly live in the moment. Whatever they are doing at the time is their whole world. Nothing else exists except for that activity and when it no longer holds their attention they simply switch their focus to whatever’s next got their attention. And that part I love. Because it reminds me to try and stay in the moment.

John Lennon said that “life is what happens when you’re busy making plans” and I think he’s right. We become so busy, so preoccupied with what’s next or with what just happened that we miss the here and now. But for Hyla there only is the here and now and there’s a tremendous serenity in all that.

And so, while I love the way she exists for the here and now and how that reminds me to feel, I still wish she would stop putting things down. I’ve already told her that if she loses the iPod she will have to wait till next Hanukah for another one. Next year. A whole year. But that’s not a scene I really want to deal with and the next time I see her put something down that doesn’t belong there I’ll still probably hide it to try and bring the point home.

But secretly it reminds me that sometimes I just want to put something down and walk away. And for that I kind of admire her. So I prod and I hide and I watch and wait. But I know that there will come day where she will better understand time and place and be more responsible about her things. And part of me hopes that day will never come.