We were flying home from our 5 day vacation in Barcelona, when Michael turned to me and asked "What do you want to do before you die?". It took me only a second to think of my answer; "There is nothing left. All I want to do before I die, I've already done. I have gotten married, I have had children. Everything else is just icing on the cake."
As I reflected further I realized somethings which I would like to share and so here are some things that I learned while we were on vacation.
Slowing down is always better. When I slow down enough and take things as they come in stead of trying to stick to a specific time table or plan, things are usually much more pleasant. We didn't see all the things we wanted to see while we were in Barcelona, but rather than being bummed out about what we missed, we are excited that we have a reason to go back again. Our days were so lovely, not because they were completely free of petty attitudes followed by repentance and forgiveness, but because we were together as a family. In the good and in the not so good.
Being present is the key to enjoying and being entertained by my daughters. When I want to be somewhere else or be doing something else, my children aren't getting my full attention and we are all losing. I miss out on the funny thing Magnolia said or the cute way Anemone copied her sister. They get frustrated because I don't respond quick enough to their needs, and I know once they get frustrated I get frustrated too.
We can go on a full day outing and all be completely content. Sure it requires a measure of preparation, and packing a few things, but even that isn't such a big deal if I am willing to be flexible. That is if I don't worry too much about exactly when naps are happening and what effect it will have on bed time, and if I can be a bit relaxed about what goes in their mouths. So they may have had mostly snacks today. Did they eat? Yes. Success.
My children are a gift, not a burden. Though sometimes it is tempting to pine about all the things we could do if we were on our own, I wouldn't want life to be any other way. Sure it would be easier to just scadaddle up the stairs from the metro without having to carry two strollers, but I wouldn't get to enjoy the squeals of excitement as we climb to the top. I wouldn't see the tiny dog Magnolia quickly points out. I wouldn't think twice about stopping to feed birds. I certainly wouldn't get to look at my daughters (and my husband) and feel tears welling up in my eyes, as I am realizing how blessed I truly am. I did nothing to deserve them, or their love for me. And yet I have it, what a magnificent grace I've been shown in them.
Real life is better than virtual reality. We spent very little time on our phones while we were away, except for taking photos, sharing photos and looking up directions on Google Maps. It was refreshing. To be honest I think the girls noticed too. It is so easy to think that you are just going to do something quick or checking something for a second and not realize how distracted and absent you actually are.
But most importantly, I was reminded how much I just genuinely enjoy my family. I was reminded of how funny my husband can be, and how much he makes me laugh. When we aren't all caught up in petty details and logistics, we actually joke around a lot. I really got to soak in my oldest daughter's growing independence and vocabulary and my youngest daughter's curiosity.
I got to see how God is growing us as parents, giving ourselves (and each other) grace when we aren't being patient, or when we don't keep our cool. I am so very thankful for the opportunity to go on this trip, as a refresher and reminder of how precious these years of parenting littles are, while also remembering to care for our young marriage.