Once we had kids my husband and I quickly learned dates were going to look a lot different. We hadn’t realized that before children, every night was date night. Kids complicated things, made the night out—due to babysitting costs—much more expensive. Unless it’s a special occasion, date nights now mean you pick one: movie or dinner.
A couple of weeks ago, we were feeling crazy. We decided to do a movie and dinner. Date perfection.
But about twenty minutes into the movie, we were feeling disappointed. It wasn’t at all what we thought it would be. As the minutes kept creeping by, all I thought about was the time (nearly three hours) I wouldn’t get back in my life and the money we were paying the babysitter for a movie that, in our opinion, ended up being not worth the hype.
It seemed like a total wash, except for one thing.
Towards the end, the main character, an 18-year-old boy, is getting ready to head off to college with all the enthusiasm any 18-year-old boy would have about leaving home. But his mom, understandably, is having a harder time. She’s teary as she watches him so easily pack his boxes, so easily transition to a more expansive world, so easily leaving her.
When he finally gets the clue, he stops and asks her what’s wrong. In tears, she recounts the milestones of his life—of her life. Then she stops and says,
“I just thought there would be more.”
I didn’t have to appreciate the whole movie to appreciate what that mom was feeling. She wanted more.
Since the moment we become parents, we are encouraged to track our child’s milestones. Their first bath, first smile, first word. Their first day of school, first lost tooth, first sleepover. Their first girlfriend/boyfriend, first solo car trip, their last first day of school.
But as parents, while we work so hard to memorialize the significant moments, with Shutterfly albums, and Facebook posts, it could be we’re missing the point. It could be the more we are looking for, the more that is so subtle—the thing we are grasping for when our parenting days are unequivocally done—is in the stuff we can’t name, didn’t write down and forgot to capture.
The more, it seems, is in the millions of moments leading up to and following the noteworthy moments. In the unremarkable. In the unexceptional and uneventful. It’s in the ordinary-ness that passes without proper fanfare. It’s the more we’ll wish for when our fledgling flock flies the coop, and it’s the more that ultimately defines our family.
One of my biggest fears, as a parent, is that I will someday look back and say in my real life what this fictional mom said to her fictional son. So, I’ve resolved to look for the more in the blurry and less defined everyday moments.
Hopeful that . . .
. . .though my boys will only learn to ride a bike once—I’ll pay attention to the hundreds of scraped knees needing care in the years that bookend this achievement.
. . .though there’s only one first dance—I’ll notice the dozens of miniature and major heartbreaks to tend to in the meantime.
. . .though there’s only one first step—I’ll listen closely for the million pitter patters, skips, jumps and leaps, making their way down my halls any given day.
The childhood milestones are important. But the more is the majority of parenting. Because the truth is, while we may be able to capture a lifetime in milestones, we’ll only make a life out of the more.
Look for it. It may not make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. But at the end of the day, at the end of eighteen years, at the end of the responsibility we are tasked with, we’ll be glad we stayed aware of the moments we could have missed. Once our babies have packed up and moved out we won’t get any of it back.
Except date nights.