In the never-ending flow of (often superficial) self-help advice, there are innumerable slogans that tell us to “Live today.” “Be in the now.” “Live the Moment.” Somehow, this advice flows right by our mothers – and thank goodness for that.
Unconstrained by “the now”, moms are the most agile of time jumpers. They can recall when Joey’s first basketball team won its first game and Maria’s first role in a grade school play. Moms know how to join their kids in whatever is going on today with what will be happening in their future. Moms know how to look ahead, over the horizon, and plan for a moment that their kids won’t realize for a month, a year, or a long time from now.
So, we may learn one more way to appreciate the mothers in our lives by appreciating them for the ways they live in the past, present, and future all at the same time – especially the future.
When we are young we move from one big event to the next. We arrive at the first day of school, a birthday party, or a holiday without ever realizing that our moms have been thinking, imagining, and planning for the big day long before we do.
Take the first days of school. The kiddos are oblivious until a few days before the big event when, suddenly, they panic because summer freedom is about to disappear. But mom? Beginning somewhere just past the middle of summer, mom was living the first week of school and thinking of all that she needed to do before it arrived. She had a list: clothes, school supplies, lunches and snacks, carpools, and meeting teachers, along with afterschool activities such as sports, cheerleading, music lessons, dance class, math club, science club– all the things that coincide with the first days of school.
Mom begins to look ahead fairly early in the summer and by the time school starts she is doing a magical thing that moms do better than most anyone else –she’s doing two things at once. Mother is there with her kids, being a part of the moment, doing the practical daily chores, encouraging them to live well, do well, be kind, and enjoy themselves. And, at the same time as the kids are settling in to the new routine, mom is thinking about an upcoming birthday party or Halloween costumes.
Now, apply this magic over a whole calendar. When the kids are trick or treating, mom is having a great time. But, she is also planning Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kids will be opening Christmas presents. Mom will be there, heart and soul. But , she also has an eye on the fact that school will start again soon and she has things she wants ready for that. When school starts, Mom is thinking about a Valentine’s dance or Easter.
We do not mean to suggest that any mother does this perfectly, or needs to. Nor are we suggesting that our moms are automatons working for a future that never arrives. Mothers make mistakes, forget things, and experience moments of failure. Moreover, in the midst of it all, moms are also working, achieving personal goals, and enjoying friendship with other adults.
What we are saying is that mothers can teach us a lot if we look at how they observe the past, present, and future as a whole. For mom, time is something organic and elastic, and she uses it to bring together all of the experiences that make her life and her children’s lives as joyful and productive and satisfying as possible at any given moment, on any given day, during any month or year or lifetime.
The gift that mothers have to live in “the now” while at the same time imagining and planning for the future is not just to be appreciated, but also to be celebrated. This is one more thing to love about our moms.