Enjoy the journey, too

“Mom, can we go see the Superman costume?”

This, mere seconds after stepping out of the elevator shaft that took us 650 feet below the surface.

I had been down in Strataca salt mine before, so I knew where the costume—as featured in the orientation video—was located. At the end of the self-guided tour.

So, wisely I said, “We will get there. You will need to be patient.”

We listened to a short presentation. And then I felt a young one come up beside me.

“Mom, can we go see the Superman costume?”

Now I knew. His excitement over the Superman costume would supersede any of the other museum features. Eventually we would get there. And I would need to be patient.

I continued to put off his persistence. At one point I even tried to explain that if we become too focused on one thing, we miss out on the journey. Life lesson, right? For a moment, I thought he even understood as he briefly succumbed to a cease-fire.

But then, “Mom, can we go see the Superman costume?”—this time in rapid-fire succession.

Sigh. Sure, buddy. Let’s go.

We walked the length of mine to the underground vaults, winding our way to the final room. And then, there was Superman. And Batman. And a race-car driving suit. My boy was finally satisfied. But I’m still sad for him that he missed all the amazing machines he could have seen along the way. If not for the fixation, he would have many more memories of the day at the mine—he is blissfully unaware, but I am not.

As school gears up again, it seems to be a good time to remember to enjoy what’s right in front of us. Some families are gearing up for the college realm. Seniors are ready to experience that last first day of high school, and freshmen are going to start their first.

Some middle schoolers are trying to calm fears of getting lost or forgetting locker combinations, and parents who are shell-shocked by the lightning speed of the passage of time.

For our family, the days of babies, toddlerhood and library storytime have officially come to an end. Thurs­day, all three of my kids will wake up to a new school year as a fourth-grader, second-grader and kindergartener.

Unlike the summer before my oldest went to kindergarten, I haven’t spent this season in dread of the next. It’s not that I won’t miss them. Oh, to the contrary! Being a mother is more than I could have ever dreamed of! And I have pangs of sadness along with the “what if they’re NOT ready” worries.

But this time, as a beloved chapter comes to a close, I find myself without fixation. I’m not constantly asking to go see the Superman costume.

The turning point for me was the realization that growing up is normal. I know. Not terribly earth-shattering. My guess is we all know that. But for me I needed to take the head knowledge and let it be transformed into heart knowledge.

For those who have been reading my column for its duration, you might remember the medical journey we were forced to join when our oldest was a year old. Her blood counts were nowhere near normal. She wasn’t growing like she should. And that was cause for concern.

Fast-forward to her first year of school, where I caught myself wishing she wasn’t growing up so fast. How ironic. We spent months going from appointment to appointment to HELP her grow…and here I was wishing she wouldn’t?

Reality check for Mom!

I was fixated on what I was losing, instead of what I was gaining.

I’m not saying mourning isn’t appropriate. For me, there is a time of sadness as each chapter transitions to the next. I am shocked at the quick passage of time.

But I don’t want to lose my focus of what’s happening in the here and now. We might be beyond the 24/7 care of infancy, the intense demands of toddlerdom, even the challenging stubbornness that comes with 3s and 4s, but there are still lessons to be taught and lessons to learn.

As my sweet blessings head out the door, leaving me behind in an empty house, I hope to quiet my quest for the Superman costume and instead enjoy the journey, encouraging my kids to do the same.

Malinda Just has been writing her monthly column for the Free Press since 2008. She can be reached at malinda@justs.org.