This happens a lot:
I’m in the grocery store with my 3 young children and an older woman wistfully says, “Your children are precious. Don’t blink. You don’t want to miss these years.”
One woman even told me, “I blinked and I regret it so much.”
Each time this happens, I worry.
Because, in reality, I am blinking everyday.
As I am wiping toothpaste off the bathroom floor and/or wall and/or door for the 18th time in 3 days, I am not deeply appreciating the preciousness of this time of life.
No, I’m battling frustration.
Because, in reality, to make sure dinner is on the table and that there are at least some clean clothes, I am often just “managing” my way through our daily family life. So while I’m in “dear-God-will-this-chicken-ever-be-done-cooking” mode, I am not appreciating the magical things young children do each day.
No, I’m feeling pressured.
Because, in reality, I also run a farm and, for the thousands of years that humans have farmed, not a one farmer has ever said, “Well that went exactly as planned.”
So as I’m dealing with the farm drama dujour, I’m not perfectly present for my children in every moment.
No, I’m just coping.
So when folks say “Don’t Blink” I cringe and think, “BuT I feel like i just have to….”
So as we went through fall- arguably our busiest time of year - there I was constantly worried that I wasn’t giving enough time and energy to my kids.
My well-worn mental routine kicked in.
“Cate, how dare you. Look at how much you blink. Good mothers don’t do that. Good mothers spend less time working and absorb every detail of your children’s lives. They probably even make scrap books about them.”
Then suddenly it occurred to me, “Don’t we blink for a reason? Isn’t not blinking a bad thing?”
So here’s what Google says about blinking:
Blinking is how we keep our corneas moist and clean our eyes
Not blinking is a very worrying side effect of conditions like facial paralysis and Parkinson’s
Not blinking for extended periods causes incredible pain, damage to the eyes and can lead to blindness
I even found (totally unnerving) videos of people not blinking for extended periods of time. The “non-blinkers” had these intense zombie-like stares that I couldn’t watch for more than a few seconds.
I know these facts apply to actual blinking. And I know I’m talking about parenting.
But isn’t there a parallel here?
I mean, doesn’t unwavering zombie-like focus on our children sound like it’s a bad idea for everyone involved?
Athletes need rest days to maintain peak performance. Professionals need weekends to regain mental clarity
It’s parents we hold to this unrealistic “always on” standard.
And under this “always on” standard, I’m certain that I do NOT maintain peak parenting performance.
Namely, my sense of humor leaves the building. I start trying to control everything. Grand crankiness ensues.
By holding myself to an unrealistic standard, I become less capable of handling this tremendously important responsibility.
So here’s the new parenting standard I’m playing with these days.
Blink.Without guilt. Whenever I need. As much as I need.
And with my newly cleaned, moistened and healthy eyeballs, here’s what I see:
My children are often happiest when they’re free to roam the woods, swim in the pond and just make their own day.
They don’t really want my unwavering attention; they just want to know I am there when needed.
My ideas of “unblinking” attention probably say more about my need to feel like I’m mothering “correctly.” It probably has very little to do with what my children actually need.
So, next time someone warns me “don’t blink,” I’ll be grateful for the reminder to closely hold this special time of life.
However, I’ll internalize their reminder like this: