“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.”
-John F. Kennedy
Few things are more humbling than standing at the very edge of the ocean while the waves crash in one after another with a force that both scares and fascinates. When the horizon appears endless and the sea deep and mysterious, the little things seem to fade away.
The enormity of the ocean with its mighty, crashing waves has long proved a metaphor for many facets of life. The waves might symbolize grief for some, hope for others, and longing for those who remain in search of dreams.
And while the ocean is large and overwhelming at times, the ocean can also feel small. It is the ocean, after all, that keeps us all connected. In one way or another, the ocean reaches out and makes the world a smaller place.
And yet, I always find it humbling.
Standing side-by-side, our feet bare and our hands connected, Liam and I breathed in the salty air while staring out at an endless line of blue. He broke the silence with an observation fit for a four-year-old in awe of the greatness before him…
“I think it’s bigger than forever, Mommy.”
“I think you’re right, sweet boy. I think it is.”
Parenting is full of shifting emotions. Moods change with the wind when you’re small, and parents have to manage those moods as they arise.
There is always something to be done, it seems, and always something that was left undone when darkness finally creeps in.
There are amazing moments of awe and wonder followed by less than amazing moments of tears and sorrow. There are milestones and lost teeth, and there are separation and independence.
And then there is the mom guilt. Oh, how the mom guilt can overtake the soul when a frazzled brain seeks silence and rest.
Did I do enough? Was I mom enough? Did I love them all equally? What about my husband? Did he feel loved today?
Our hearts are pulled in different directions from moment to moment. Although we know that we love them all with every fiber of our beings, we still wonder which way our hearts went at times. When the days are long and the nights never-ending, we still manage to question ourselves.
Because parenting is hard sometimes.
And we screw up on occasion…
Did I forget to go to the bank again? Did I fill out that permission slip? Did I remind that other mom of the allergies? Is there any milk left in this house?
Standing at the edge, where the water crashes into the sand, I am always struck by the sheer insignificance of the little things. The very things that seem so huge in the moment feel small and meaningless when I look out into the water, wondering what’s really out there.
Perhaps that’s why the ocean calms me. Perhaps that’s what draws me in.
Life is a series of moments, it seems. Some feel huge while others feel small, but they are all moments just the same. Moments can be amazing, but moments can also be stressful. Moments can trigger both positive and negative emotions, if we let them.
At the end of the line, when the kids are grown and we look back on our parenting journeys, we will piece the moments together one by one like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s up to us to celebrate and internalize the amazing moments along the way, and let those insignificant, stressful moments roll back with the tide. Because at some point, all we really have are our memories. And we get to choose which memories make it into the finished puzzle.
Let go of the mom guilt. Let the small, stressful moments fade away. Learn from the mistakes but take comfort in the amazing.
The moments will continue to crash in…it’s up to you to savor the good ones.