What really matters?

Hairdressing salons are places where some pretty deep conversations can take place. Last week, whilst there, my hairdresser and I fell into conversation about rising rate of chronic and terminal illnesses among the people we know and how their message seems to always be the same- live life now, don’t wait. She relayed the story of her grandfather to me. He had worked for Spoornet his whole life; he had worked flat out, telling his family that when he was 55 he was going to retire and then travel the world. He focused so much on what he was going to be doing, and justified his hard work by the time he would later have available for his family and friends. He did retire at 55, but sadly the night of his retirement party he had a heart attack, fell into a coma, and died.

When I considered this story, I thought about how it reflects a mindset so often within me, and that I see in most of society today. We justify working hard now and frequently prioritize unnecessary activities ‘so that we will have time and money for our families later.’ We work tirelessly ‘in their best interests’, to provide for them, for their future and ours. Now I’m not at all saying that we shouldn’t be planning for our own and our children’s futures, in particular in the unstable economic climate in which we live. I am saying, we often get our priorities wrong and in the process, we are losing out on moments of valuable connection with our children.

As a family, we live in a relatively quiet neighbourhood and on Sunday afternoons, the streets become child friendly places to walk and bike. This past weekend Christian, (who is four) and Rachel, (who is two) had been begging to go skateboarding and biking. It’s a lovely downhill for racing bellydown on a skateboard and for freewheeling pushbikes- even if pushbikes require parents to carry them to the top again before starting all over! My husband took the kids out to begin the weekly adventure and I decided to tackle the post weekend carnage build up that had overrun my kitchen. (I don’t particularly like beginning the week with weekend chaos littered across my countertops). As I started loading the dishwasher I heard the delighted screeches coming from the road, and saw a few blurrs whizzing past the front gate. In that moment I realized that I had it wrong. I had it back to front, upside down, and wrong on every conceivable level. The dishes weren’t going anywhere, the kitchen, and I, would survive, but by choosing to stay in the kitchen and tidy up, I was missing out on memories and moments of bonding and connection.

It’s not only the kitchens in our lives. Often we focus so much on preparing for the tomorrows, that we lose out on the beauty of today, right now, this moment. I stared down the dishes, dried my hands, and joined my family for their Sunday afternoon road fun. I was rewarded with a ‘special stone’, found for me by my son, I got to walk hand in hand with my daughter, and I had the shared experience of investigating bird-pecked avos which had tumbled to the pavement. I got to run down the road next to my son on his skateboard, discussing the benefits of smooth versus rough tar, and I got to make memories and bond with the two little lives whose future will largely be based on a collection of all these seemingly small moments. I got to live in the now, and focus on what really matters.

Too often we get our priorities wrong- work deadlines, emails, social events or dirty kitchens hijack the NOWS and in doing so the very moments that build our relationships with our children.

In your last moments of life, I can guarantee that you won’t be regretting working harder, or tidying one more kitchen. So much of what we prioritize is not actually a priority, its just a hindrance to experiencing the joy of the now. In your last reflections on life you will regret the moments of NOW which you lost out on, the moments of connection you missed with your children and family. I for one would not like to end my life knowing memories I could have made today never happened because of all the plans I was trying to put in place for tomorrow. What really matters? For my children, it meant far more to have mom laughing alongside them and experiencing the magic of belly skateboarding, than coming inside to a tidy kitchen. What would matter more to yours?

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