When my daughter was a newborn and woke up at ungodly hours. I’d sometimes load her into the carrier and walk up to Summit Park near our home. Even in the wee hours, the heat of her little body on my chest would leave me sweating halfway up the hill. But once we were there, it was just her and me and the view of the city. The empty reservoir not yet filled with joggers, the rock formations void of romantic couples. Complete stillness.
We would pass the empty swing set, wander down paths lined with wildflowers and soak in the stillness that graces early mornings in nature. It was not yet daytime. Exhaustion had not yet set in. My head was not yet cluttered with thoughts, mushy protein recipes or the library baby time schedule. No one was texting. No nap schedule had begun. I could just wander and marvel at the unfamiliarity that I now had a human being to shepherd through life.
Our morning walks were a time of awe. A time of wonder at my diaper-rashed, screechy, shaggy-haired baby and the fact that I was now a mom.
As toddlerhood crept up, my daughter started sleeping better and she started inhabiting the world more and more. Touching everything, making eye contact, smiling, laughing, crying, throwing tantrums about bedtime. She came out of the cocoon she’d been in as a baby and fully embraced everything around her.
With maternity leave over, our sunrise walks stopped. The whirlwind of lunches and dishes and dance classes and visiting the grandparents took over.
During the pandemic, I resumed my walks up the hill on my own, when an hour of free time away from full-time parenting and Zoom meetings and Facetime catch-ups engulfed our home.
However, my walks often got pushed to evening, when joggers and couples and teenagers were also enjoying the park. I still came home feeling peaceful but the stillness that my daughter and I had enjoyed during these early mornings was gone.
I no longer find moments of stillness when my baby falls asleep in the stroller and I duck into a Café Fantastico with my journal or take morning walks through the cherry blossom petals to baby group. Moments of stillness now have to be meticulously carved out, almost stolen, from the beautiful but all-consuming life that is parenting a young child, while working and wife-ing and trying to keep on person-ing.
Now these moments involve taking my journal to Pilates just in case I have energy to duck into a coffee shop afterwards to write or stalling before I go into Canadian Tire by looking at pictures I’ve taken on my phone. It’s sitting in the car before coming in the house so I can pause before the onslaught of mess and meal prep and five-year-old-decibel bath time returns. Sometime it’s sneaking to the basement for YouTube yoga. It’s meditation apps that I play at bedtime but largely tune out. It’s taking my daughter to the beach and gazing at the ocean in between playing “Restaurant” or “Airplane.” Other times It’s putting Bluey on so I can shower without getting interrupted.
The other day my husband and daughter came home while I was doing YouTube yoga in the living room. “Mom, I need to poo!” my daughter declared, waiting for me to pause the video, get up and go with her to wipe her bum. I hesitated. My impulse is always to say “okay sweetie” and attend to her needs. But this time I took a moment.
“I’m busy, ask daddy to help you.”
She pouted. Then conceded “okaaayy” in her whiniest tone. I continued my downward dog as the family chaos unfolded in the background.
After I was done, I did a few more of my favourite stretches, because moments of peace are hard to come by and when they do—at home or in nature, morning or afternoon—I savour them. I take a moment for awe. I take a moment to breathe again so that the wonder of parenting isn’t lost on me. So that I am not lost on me. I take these moments so that I still smile when she says “Daddy’s going to want to put this picture straight on the fridge”. Or “Guess what? It’s Teddy’s birthday tomorrow!” or when she complains that her imaginary friends get later bedtimes than she does.
Enjoying Moments of Stillness
For me, parenting has been the opposite of stillness. It’s been Cheerios on the ground, macaroni stuck to the bottom of the pot, six am wake ups with multiple laptops set up for camp registration, buying presents in bulk for birthday party season and having dance parties to Raining Tacos in the living room.
Taking a moment helps me remember that just as my daughter outgrew her carrier and stopped napping in coffee shops, soon she will stop playing Restaurant and Airplane and her imaginary friends will be gone. Taking a pause helps parenting be fun again. It helps me find the marvels in mundane everyday moments before they slip away.