When I go on business trips, I always make the foolish mistake of choosing on-flight movies with the saddest or soppiest story lines. It often reduces me to tears, and there I sit, quietly sobbing and sniffling feeling bad for leaving my family for a few days and homesick at the same time.
On the recent long haul flight to the United States, my misguided choice was the movie “Collateral Beauty” with a stellar cast of Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Keira Knightly and Helen Mirren.
The story centered on the concepts of “Death“, “Time” and “Love” – which got me reflecting on these 3 intricacies of life and my own selfish thoughts on them as a mommy…..
One of the characters in the movie, a father with a young family, was secretly hiding a cancerous illness from his family. Whilst talking about his imminent DEATH, he reminisced his younger years. He mentioned that when he was younger, he thought he didn’t really want to live to 100 looking like a shriveled up raisin. But now that he was looking DEATH in the eye, he wanted to live as long as he can – to see his baby grow up, to get to know his grandson and to hold his great-grandson in his arms.
Thinking back, I had the same naive worldview when I was much younger. I used to think that once I have ticked off my list of life goals, including having children, I would be satisfied, have no regrets and can DIE happy.
How very wrong I was. As I continue to mature as a parent, I realize what a lie that state of mind was.
All of us, including me, get greedy with Father TIME. In my younger years, I had the misunderstanding that having a child is a life goal. But no! In fact, it should be that being a parent is the life goal where the birth of a child is only the very beginning of that parental journey, one that once you jump on board, you do not want to get off.
That’s why today is the “present” – it is that gift of precious TIME. What a blessing it is that we have been given this TIME as parents. In our busy lives, we need constant reminder not to take TIME for granted.
Sadly, it was only when I had 15 hours to spare that I had TIME to reflect on this.
The day before I flew out, I had organized an elaborate dinosaur birthday party for Joshua’s 5th birthday. I had spent months planning all the details of the party – booking the venue and the dinosaur cake, ordering party goodies on Amazon, designing the birthday invitation, inviting his classmates, friends and family and arranging a surprise dinosaur entertainment for the party.
Whilst supportive and impressed with the party’s success, Jeff didn’t quite understand why I spent so much time, effort and money on the event.
To him, his inability to understand stemmed from the fact that he never had a birthday party held in his honor during his childhood. He never had all his friends from school gather around him and sing the birthday song to him. In fact, he doesn’t even remember being invited to other children’s birthday parties either (he suspected perhaps because he didn’t hold one of his own or never attended other kids’ parties so the invitations dried up).
With 10 more hours left on my flight, I had plenty of time to ponder on this. What I ultimately concluded was that it wasn’t just about a birthday party.
In fact, I confess, that it was as much a party for Joshua as it was for me (and the same applies when I organised Jayden’s birthday party earlier this year). Honestly, I LOVE seeing the excitement in their faces when they find out they will host their own birthday party with a surprise element on the day. I LOVE living their contagious excitement and anticipation with them. I LOVE them sharing their doubts and uncertainties with me (whether their friends will turn up at the party).
Selfishly, what I LOVE most is seeing the pure happiness, joyful and proud expressions on the boys’ faces. Then when the surprise was revealed, the utter wide-eye fascination and elation so pure. It was such innocent beauty that we can only capture at this age. We lose it as TIME goes by. The whole experience, seeing them so happy gave me an absolute sense of contentment.
Secretly, given the history, I also didn’t want the boys growing up lamenting that they never had a birthday party of their own! Now, I even have photos to prove it!
Of course, one can argue that I didn’t have to spend all that money, effort and time to organise a party to achieve all that. That indeed is true – but I believe that often times, it is in these special memorable milestone moments – out of the normal everyday life – that we see it all with more abundant clarity. It is also with this remarkable clarity, that I appreciate those reactions, expressions and moments with my boys a whole lot more.
We can’t turn back TIME, but perhaps, Jeff can live vicariously through his sons and experience childhood birthday parties through their innocent eyes as if they were his own.
On top of it all, I LOVE surprises – the giving part often takes much effort and time to pull off – but it is a labour of love, and I enjoy it very much. Sometimes, it involves a few white lies in there as well! The best part of it is witnessing the recipient’s sheer pure joyous yet shocked expression that makes it all worth it.
The receiving part of surprises is obvious. The abundant LOVE I feel when someone makes an enormous effort on my behalf to plan a surprise the sole purpose of which is to make me happy. To me, if nothing else, that’s a true example of a declaration of unselfish LOVE.
Jeff, however, never received this all important lesson when he was young that women LOVE surprises, and have since had to learn that lesson the hard way. Even though he dreads it so much, he has come along way to go out of his comfort zone to plan a week-long of surprises for me during the week of my birthday. It is something I look forward to every year and appreciate beyond measure.
So for my boys, me planning surprises for them at their birthday party or any other time, is a way for me to instill in them from a young age the message that “mommy love surprises”. My hope is that as they grow older, they can support and help Jeff in planning surprises for their mommy, even plan it themselves (!?!) and ultimately, transfer the same set of skills to plan surprises for their respective girlfriends and later wife.
So, the silly mommy me is also a selfish mommy. Selfish to live longer to see where life takes my boys. Selfish to make myself happy by wanting to see pure joy in their little eyes. Selfish to indoctrinate them with my love of surprises, hoping to reap the rewards in future years.
Above all, selfish to create countless precious and priceless memories with them in my heart so I can share and treasure them as long as I can remember.