101. Seeking Serenity

101. Seeking Serenity

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

Seeking Serenity

Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.

~Thomas Szasz

Watching sleeping babies has never been my thing. While other parents recount that this is one of the absolute joys of parenting, that there is nothing as peaceful in the world, that this simple task makes the trials and tribulations of parenting all worth it — I shake my head slowly, perplexed.

Back in the days when I would have watched my own babies sleep, what I saw was an opportunity to go sleep myself. I was very sleep-deprived, and I’ve always been very practical.

If, by some miracle, my baby boys actually napped for more than twenty minutes at a time, I saw an opportunity to do something productive. You know — laundry, dishes, cleaning, maybe even take a shower or brush my teeth.

Standing motionless, watching babies sleep, just letting the time pass, did not appeal to me. It was enough to take a quick peek, to make sure their little eyes were closed and their breathing steady, before I was off.

Now, years later, I spend hours each week watching my boys swim.

I often think to myself, perhaps I should do something productive. There is plenty of time to leave swim team practice — to go run errands, to go to the gym next door, to make phone calls to neglected friends and relatives.

There is nothing new or exciting that happens at any given swim practice. It’s not like I will miss anything monumental if I leave. Jonah, my nine-year-old, complains that, “Swim practice is the most boring thing in the world.”

Ah, my boy If only you could see it from my point of view. That is exactly what I love about it.

My two boys are most beautiful when they are swimming. Their wiry arms and legs are rhythmic, their lean bodies perfectly controlled, strong and purposeful. Their breathing is patterned and predictable — one, two, three, breathe, one, two, three, breathe. Everything about them is peaceful, planned, and orderly.

It is rare to see them this way — for while they are generally good kids, they are also exploding with the exuberance of young life, full of fresh ideas, fervent eagerness, and, most notably, total chaos. Spending time with them is often like getting swept into a tornado. I love them for their raw zest and enthusiasm — but sometimes, I just need a break.

The other parents don’t wait around. They get groceries, they exercise, they chase younger siblings around outside by the little play structure. Some of them even go outside and take naps in their cars. I am one of the only ones sitting — apparently doing nothing — on the very uncomfortable set of metal bleachers. If it is cold, I bundle up in my down parka and drink hot tea.

I cannot tear myself away from this hour of tranquility. Watching my boys in motion — in perfect, rhythmic, orderly motion — is so different from the whirlwind of raw energy, the flailing limbs, and the unpredictable explosions of chaotic motion that mark the other hours of my day. I know that as soon as swim practice ends, there will be an argument about who showers first, about what we’re having for dinner, about taking out the garbage, about going to bed.

But here, during swim practice, my boys are breathtaking.

I sit at peace in the eye of the hurricane.

I have found my thing.

~Lisa Pawlak

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