To some, 'sweet spot' means the best place on a bat to connect with the baseball or the place to hit a golf ball with the club. But how often does "sweet spot" make us think of a point in time when life is as good as it gets?
I've spent a lot of time lately feeling like I'm in a sweet spot with my two little ones. There are often days they nap at the same time, one is potty trained and things feel like they're running smoothly. But I've been at this long enough to know that these easy days can quickly become a blur of "about to get harder" and "the worst is over" moments. Both kids could refuse to nap and the oldest could decide to use the carpet for a bathroom on the same day.
Because there's always a chance our smooth sailing will turn into staying afloat in stormy seas, all too often the sweetest spots in time are found only in hindsight. Whether it's the sleep deprivation of parenthood, the stress of work outside of the home, or both to blame, it's so easy for moments we'll long for one day to go unnoticed as they happen. My little ones are growing faster than time should move and I want to find the sweet spot in each day and tuck it away.
There are times I remember being aware of that moment when it happened, the one that makes you pause and copy it to a mental hard drive. Snorkeling in Sharm El Sheikh years before we were parents, I remember staring at a school of rainbow colored fish, backlit by sunshine like a lite-brite and thinking how lucky we were to be there experiencing that amazing moment together. I'd never felt a spiritual thankfulness like it before and knew in that minute of beauty, life was as good as life gets.
If only it was always so easy to be aware of the perfection in our lives that so often gets missed. From the nights in college spent feeling burdened by studying that in reality are the nights with the most freedom of our lives to the newborn's schedule that feels so demanding but will be the most relaxed schedule we ever have, everyone can look back on a time they missed a sweet spot.
When my son was about a week old a friend stopped by to visit and I somehow managed to pretend that I wasn't completely overwhelmed by the demands of being home with him. As she was leaving she commented how lucky I was to have nothing else to do but stay home and take care of him. I couldn't relate to what she was saying but I never forgot that she said it. I didn't understand at the time how right she was, just how sweet a spot it was, how I would look at a new mom and think the same thing someday, or how I would give anything to have those days back now.
As I prepare to send that baby to preschool, I know another sweet spot is about to change and I'm clinging to these last days free of a schedule other than our own. Instead of rushing through breakfast to get on with the day, I'm letting it drag on long enough to remember him eating syrupy pancakes with his hands, stuffed puppy and real puppy by his side.
It's hard to resist looking ahead to the next milestone, imagining how it will be different or better when the baby naps longer, eats solid food, walks, talks, or starts school. It's just a way to cope with the rough stages. But thinking too far ahead is like skipping ahead in a story- the ending isn't the same if you missed all the pages that came before it.
If it sometimes feels like the sweet spot in a day was the morning coffee or drifting to sleep at its end that's o.k. because, let's face it, most days that ocean view exists only in vacation photos. But no matter how smoothly things run or how chaotic every waking second of it feels, there's a chance each day to notice what's perfect just the way it is.
The day neither child naps, there's couscous stuck to every inch of the kitchen, a mysterious rash is spreading on one kid's face, dad's out of town, and the baby spit up in my unwashed hair as I'm leaving the house? There's a moment or two that day I'll wish I had back not long from now. It may even be those messy minutes themselves.