My birthday just passed and I heard a similar thing from a few people - about what a milestone year it was - I became a grandmother and ran my first marathon. It’s true, both huge things that were life altering. It got me thinking about what truly defines a year or a time period…or our lives. Is it the big things or the small ones? Everyone says it’s the small things in life that count most. I think I might buck conventional wisdom on this one and say I think it truly is both. And maybe the small and the big aren’t as different as we think. And at some point in this post you’ll see how I find this connects to being a parent…
The little things in life make up the everyday. They are crucial. They set the tone and the overall feeling for how our life is. How our house feels. Do we have a relaxing environment to nurture our kids ? Is our life generally a stress free zone where people can enjoy and accomplish. That note you wrote someone just because you wanted to make them smile. The pictures you draw on your kids lunches so they’ll know you’re thinking about them when they’re in school all day. The small things stack up to make a big difference.
But the big things matter. And sometimes I think they matter more than we realize. If your life is one that includes many big trips this might not apply to you - but if you’re like us and going on a trip is a big adventure then you might find a family trip is one of those big things. We went to Iceland two years ago as a family. It was the first time we all flew together. My kids can pretty much recall every nuance of that trip. How it felt to experience each piece of it. I can still close my eyes and hear the wind on the coast and smell the sulfur. And it wasn’t just experiencing frozen waterfalls and amazing ice caves that they remember. I think they’re equally fond of telling you how they walked barefoot on ice to get to the backyard hot tub and just hang out. Those memories were made from something big. Stepping out of the ordinary brings out a different side of us. We can walk away from the everyday practicalities of our lives and just be. Those moments are important.
Becoming a grandmother was another big thing. When it happens it seems to have come on so fast - they were literally your baby just a second ago. It’s really a lifetime of your child rearing coming to a crescendo. Every up and down you had with that child, every struggle and triumph. Every sleepless night, diaper you changed, the hours you sat and did homework, the big and the small - all helped shape your child into the person they have become and the life they’ve chosen to live. Their introduction into parenthood and their approach is all part of that. The amazing human being they are and the new life that joined your family - all pieces of that.
And then there is working towards a big goal. For me this past year, it was my marathon. It took a lot of small goals and worked into bigger and bigger ones until I finally was able to tackle the biggest of all. But for me, that wasn’t where that journey ends. It wasn’t about checking a box off and moving on. It was also about getting there and then saying what’s next here that I can do? And deciding to keep running and loving the everyday part of it. About combining the big and the small together.
Not all big things are one off grand adventures. Just think about when you were dating and decided to get married. Everyone prepares and prepares for that big day - and that day is important and exciting and can be amazing. But the real amazing is what comes next - the life you live together. The everyday you will then spend for years and years.
So back to being parents in this world of big and small - I feel like sometimes we focus on the big things a lot (currently bar mitzva planning and it definitely gets the lions share of attention) and we forget the small things but other times, we get caught up in the small everyday and forget to make time for those big things. Now, when everyone is either on break or about to have break, is a good time to reassess that balance. Enjoy the big things when you get the chance, keep chugging away at both the big and small - and hopefully you’ll reap the rewards of both types to be able to look back on every year and really feel it was a milestone for you and your family.
If this was 43, I’m really curious what 44 has in store!