My toddler and I are taking a walk down a sandy path by a lagoon near our house. It's been pleasant. It's been nice. Now it's getting frustrating.
After the initial gleeful run to show off his speed, he takes a few steps and stops to handle the sand under his feet. He takes a few more steps and stops again to look at a nearby bird perched on the wooden fence bordering the path. I take him by the hand to get him moving again. Three paces later he stops to spend nearly ten minutes, what to me seems to be an eternity, watching an ant make its way across the fence.
I want to keep moving. That's what a walk is about, isn't it? Walking? I have a very, very ambitious plan for the next hour and I don't want to stop at my toddler's every whim. No, this plan is not a critical meeting with the CEO to tell her she's never going to get the funding she needs out of that banking group, nor is it a board meeting where key decisions will be made regarding budgets and who stays and who gets a pink slip. Nope. My ambitious plan on this weekday I have off from my flex-schedule job is to walk around this bend, turn down this street, and then get back home and get dinner started. Yes, I have the whole next hour planned out.
My 2 year-old is only focused on this particular moment. He seemingly has no awareness of the next hour or the next day. He is still tracking that ant. With a, “Come on honey,” I pick him up to move him along. He takes control of the situation and throws a terrible-two tantrum which, through its very intensity, defeats my overly ambitious goal to actually just walk.
I give up and decide to get comfortable by parking my rear on the wooden fence. My agenda having been defeated, at least temporarily, a crack occurs in my awareness. The beauty that is around me finds an opening through which to soak into my reality. I see the pattern being created along the surface of the lagoon by the gentle wind. I feel the same pattern pressing against my skin, moving strands of my hair across my cheek. I watch my son watch that ant pace across the fence and in this moment there is nothing I would rather do than stare at his beautiful face staring at this other creature.
We do eventually get home, much later than I had planned. My son actually lays himself down on the floor and naps without putting up a fuss. Great! I've got time! Maybe I'll finally get to read that article in The Economist that I was only able to glance at two weeks ago; or sweep the floor under our dining room table, which is perpetually dotted with a potpourri of Cheerios and crumbs from our last meal; or maybe I'll even stick to plan and get dinner ready. I stop.