Tonight I realized just how often my mind is on autopilot. I hadn’t thought much about it before, until I watched a video about how our brains work and the science behind “autopilot thinking”.
You know, when you get home from work but don’t remember driving home. When you put your kids back in bed at 3am and can’t remember the next morning if you’d awoken with them or not. When you do (or don’t) respond to text messages without remembering if you had or hadn’t.
Being a practically single mom of 3 young children, there’s never a moment that I’m not thinking or planning my next move. I’m constantly thinking about what work needs to be done, which household chores need to be completed, what I need to schedule, who I need to get back to, and what we are going to eat. Those demands are always at the forefront of my thoughts and there is never a moment they are turned off. How beneficial is that, really?
Remaining in autopilot, I am missing out on so many day to day events that I would probably like to remember. My mind is always so preoccupied that sometimes it’s hard to reign in on other things; like my children or the world around me. Caring for my children is always the number one focus; but so often I become sucked into all the little(big) things necessary in caring for them.
As I thought about all of this tonight, I watched my daughter as she struggled to open the child lock on the pantry. My initial response was to feel irritated- she knew we just ate dinner and she shouldn’t be getting into the food. But instead of the usual scolding that would come after her disobedience, I was flooded with a sudden flush of emotions ranging from:
“Where have I been?”
“Where has she gone?”
I looked at her, all tiny 30 pounds of 3 year old that she is; and my heart broke. Where have I been, and where has my baby gone?
I have been so busy with the hussle and bussle of life that I have failed to stop and watch her grow. I have failed to remember the little things, like some of her firsts and her many phases. I have failed to remain presently in FRONT of her, and instead, I have been presently ABOVE her. Watching from above, watching from that autopilot position that never slows down.
I have been hovering over her; disciplining when appropriate, kissing boo-boos when needed, and loving on her as I go.. But is that really enough?
I have been raising my children in autopilot.
I have been raising my children by going through the motions.
I have been raising my children, while missing out.. on my children.
Tonight, as I watched her struggle to open that pantry door, I started sobbing as I pulled her onto my lap and just hugged her. I held on to her so tight, and as I did, I silently asked myself this question:
“What would I do if I didn’t have you?”
I cried some more, thinking about the atrocities that happen to families everyday. People who lose their children to cancer, or car fatalities, or simply just.. accidents. I held her and cried as I thought about the pain and anguish that sweeps this world daily. And how blessed am I that it hasn’t touched me yet.
I couldn’t stop kissing her and crying, because I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that I have been so far gone for such a long time. I have been so busy, so stressed, so detached.. I have spent so long trying to work and provide, to keep a clean house, to maintain order and routine. I have been trying so hard for these children, but I have been failing them in perhaps the most important area:
I have failed to remain present.
I have failed to actually look when my son said, “Mom look what I did!”
I have failed to actually listen when my daughter told me a story.
I have failed to actually retain information about them, like when they did this and how they did that.
I have failed to remain present, and instead:
I have said, “Ohh yeah that’s cool!” without actually looking.
I have mumbled, “Mmhmm yeah okay,” to rush through their stories.
I have forgotten milestones like what their first words were, when they first walked, or when they learned the alphabet.
I have failed to remain present.
So often, we worry so much about the end goal -taking care of everyone, finishing school, promoting at work, getting through the season- that we forget WHY we are motivated to do those things. We forget about our reasons. We become so consumed in “getting through life” that we forget to stop and ENJOY life.
What would I do if I lost a child today? Would I be happy with my time spent? Would I feel that I gave them the best, most presently fulfilled life I could?
Tonight, I will be bold and say NO. Because I have been too lost on autopilot.. I have not been present.
I’m sharing this, because I think we all need to stop and ask ourselves what’s really important in life.