A bright and windy Saturday afternoon in the early season of Fall. I’m sharing the last of the day’s Sun together with my eight-year old daughter, as we drive to our destination. Outside the car she notices the wind as it stirs the leaves into small vortexes near the ground, and the torn fabric of a flag, showing signs of its age as it whips wildly atop its unsteady pole. Ideas flow from my daughter’s lips like honey, with a fluid viscosity and a laughter that bubbles of youth and energy. I’m slightly subdued and seriously considering a coffee at this late hour, as the yellowed orb of the sun slowly melts into the horizon. As we approach the toy store, my little girl’s voice sings in excitement while my auditory cortex shifts into automatic, mindlessly hearing but not entirely processing the endless sound of her kid-like chatter. I’m distracted. By the cogs turning in my frontal lobe. Systems shifting my thoughts elsewhere: Distance to the next Coffee shop. Monday’s business workload. Parent-teacher Meetings. Quantity of laundry in the hamper at home. Schedule of tomorrow’s programs…The never ending “to-do” list of life.
A sharp thought jumps to the forefront of my mind, washing my distractions clean, at least for a short while, and I remind myself to consciously stay in the moment, practice my mindfulness and direct my thoughts to the here and now. To uncover the hidden joys in the short seconds, the minutes, the hours that make up my days. The beauty hidden in small units of time. To think smaller, as I breathe in the minutes and elongate them like taffy candy in the hands of a young child, a practice in stretching the sinew of joyous moments out over time and space. And there is no better moment than now, for small hints of change are making me painfully aware, as of late, that the passage of time, from my daughter’s childhood to her youth, is approaching. Her hands are losing the sweet puckered dimples at their knuckles. Her wispy and wild hair, still luminous with a youthful sheen, is rarely if ever found in braided pigtails anymore, once held tightly by mismatched elastics at their ends. Her shoelaces are tied on her own accord, zippers no longer need my guiding hands, and she sleeps, although just as pure and peacefully as she did as a baby, with far fewer stuffed animals tucked lovingly into her folded arms.
Entering the toy store, the wind picks up and blows my daughter’s mass of straw-coloured hair in front of her eyes. She stops to giggle, claw the hair away from her eyes and mouth, and then turns directly to face the wind. Hands outstretched and fingers splayed to catch the thrill of the wind’s fury and power, my eight-year old daughter closes her eyes to enjoy the experience. I close my eyes too. Not to feel the gust of wind, but to inhale and attempt to quieten the loud noise in my head that wants to tell my daughter to hurry up – That I have laundry to get to, paperwork to complete, emails to get through, and dinner to prepare. Instead, I exhale slowly and repeat my mantra “Think Smaller”. The shrill of laughter and the wide smile on my daughter’s lips confirms my choice as I cement my feet firmly into the ground, open my eyes, and watch with pleasure as my daughter drinks life in.
Inside the toy store, my little girl dances through the aisles, each one brighter, more colourful and more intriguing than the next. Her heart skipping in time with her feet. I’m adrift in my head, trying to tease apart the ongoing, intersecting, and often complicated weave of divorce schedules, work obligations, family events and kids playdates. Then a little hand, tenderly pulls my sleeve and I’m right back where I ought to be, watching through the sparkling eyes of my child, our small space in time in a toy store aisle. Here in this aisle an eight-year old girl has an opportunity to choose. Which toy? Which special treat? Which box to take home and call her own? Her lips are loose with excitement and her questions are endless. While her thoughts are loud like thunder, I actively work to keep my voice silent, for I know that if I speak my mind, I could easily convince this child of which toy would be the “best” choice, we could be at the cash register in a heartbeat, and back out in the blistery wind, homeward bound to tackle my adult “to-do” list in no time. Instead, I think smaller. Exhaling slowly, I consciously take my agenda out of the equation. Bending down to match my daughter’s height, together we ponder, we process, we consider. Which toy? How much fun would it be? Would her brother like it? Why? Why not? We delight in conversation as if there were no rush at all. We think smaller. I see the puffing of her chest in pride when she finally makes her decision, and we leave the toy aisle with a sense of grand accomplishment.
Driving home, I peer into the rear-view mirror and glimpse my growing child, still in her booster seat, although not for too long, and holding the large toy box on top of her lap, choosing to carry the weight of it for the ride rather than bear the thought of it being out of sight in the trunk. She’s examining every corner of the cardboard box, peeking through the plastic window and chatting with excitement about what she can see. Thinking smaller, I keep my mind in place as we imagine together the fun we will have building this brand new wooden bunk bed for her dollies.
No sooner have we arrived in the front door and my little girl is puncturing the box to reach at the treasures within. Laying the labelled pieces across the living room floor, we build. Spending the better part of the evening with an instruction manual, a screwdriver, a hammer, a boxed pizza, and our four hands together, we piece away, bit-by-bit toward the final product. Thinking smaller, I leave the piled laundry in the basement, the busyness of work a thought far off in my mind, and I ponder and plan with my daughter where each sticker should go on her new toy bed. When it is built we are both beaming with pride, and my daughter, my beautiful soulful daughter, hugs me tight and says “Mommy, the best part of this toy was the fun of choosing it and building it WITH YOU.” I hug her back even tighter, cup her head in my hands and kiss her forehead hard and long, grab my phone and take a picture of us together with her dolls’ newly built toy bed, making sure I capture the moment in pixelated bits so that we can remember…and yet somehow knowing that in thinking smaller, I have managed to create a moment that neither of us will soon forget.