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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 9, 2010

Living in the moment worth every minute

By Monica Quock Chan

Being a mother has taught me manifold lessons, one of which is how to better enjoy the present moment and life's simple pleasures.

As a child, this ability came naturally to me. Over the years, however, with school and work rewarding a future-oriented mindset, it was gradually lost.

After becoming a mother, I still often focused on the past ("What was I doing before I got interrupted?") or the future ("What are my kids going to get into next?). The present arrested my attention primarily for scenarios like "She spilled her milk!" or "He's running away!"

The more I observe our toddler and preschooler, though, the more I realize that their skill of living in the moment truly lends itself to joy. They waste little time second-guessing the past or worrying about the future.

Our keiki are relatively easy to please. Ask them what they want to eat, and a PBJ sandwich will surpass the chef's specials at any five-star restaurant. As for toys, electronic gizmos may have some staying power, but it is hard to top simple favorites, such as blowing bubbles, bouncing balls or scribbling. Unlike us adults who are constantly upgrading, our children are content with rereading the same well-worn books.

Waimea Falls impressed them as much as Niagara would have; an hour or two on a North Shore beach had them begging to return. Even flying a kite in the park across the street etched such a memory that my daughter talked about it long afterward.

If I provide something new to the kids (e.g., a paper bag-turned-puppet), they are captivated. Making silly faces can cause fits of laughter. Even junk mail becomes fun when it can be torn into a zillion little pieces. My husband remarks that if he simply lies down, the munchkins will be attracted like mini magnets, clambering all over him with glee.

Small accomplishments also thrill our children. After our toddler helps clean up the toys or put away the diaper changer, he looks extremely pleased. Our preschooler beams when praised for doing a good job with her chores or learning a new skill. And when they are sleeping soundly after a full day, the keiki appear quite peaceful and free.

"These are the best years of your life," a neighbor told me yesterday. I thought about that. In our family, the grandparents are healthy overall, our marriage is in its seventh year without the itch, and the kids' needs are simple. Robert Browning's "the best is yet to be" was once my mantra, but my neighbor might be right. Today, Mother's Day, I'm going to take a cue from my keiki, and savor the present moment with my 'ohana.