Wrinkles in Time
I clearly remember my first wrinkle. I know that sounds odd, but I was sitting in the back of a taxi in Mexico in my early twenties, and noticed my reflection in the rearview mirror. I had a wrinkle on my forehead just above my right eyebrow. My facial expressions have never been subtle, and friends always warned me that I should be careful not to show my surprise or dismay in quite such an obvious manner, or else I’d get wrinkles. I figured life was too short to go around looking stoic all the time so I didn’t worry about it. Funny that they concerned themselves with facial expressions back in the days when we used to bake ourselves with baby oil. Not one of those friends ever mentioned that I should wear sunscreen!
That wrinkle didn’t bother me. I still felt young and like I had a lifetime ahead of me. However, some years and several wrinkles later, I’ve been forced to face other changes. I went to the dentist the other week and was told that my gums were receding as result of brushing too hard. At first I was not alarmed. After all, we live in a time where we can fix almost everything – Botox, implants, lasers, Zoom Whitening etc. To my unfortunate surprise, the dentist told me that my gums will never go back to normal, and that all I can do is prevent further damage.
The absolute finality of this hit me. When you’re a kid, if you chip a tooth you have another shot when your adult teeth come in. Get a bad hair cut and you know it will grow back. Unfortunately, as I learned too late, there are no second chances for receding gums. Here comes the life lesson I gleaned from a visit to the dentist…
Wrinkles, stretch-marks, spider veins, sagging body parts – motherhood takes a toll, but these days there always seems to be some magical cream or treatment or surgery that will restore us to our former glory. We hope like mad and pay through the nose for the possibility of reviving physical attributes changed from the effects of time. The problem is that it is time itself we should be focused on. Time is something we cannot replace, no matter what resources, money, or scientific discovery may come our way. We can’t get it back. We need to enjoy it rather than try in vain to erase it.
As parents, we are aware that spending time with our kids is important, and we spend a lot of time planning our lives. We have long discussions about sleep patterns, weaning, and potty training. We decide about schools, after-school activities and where to go for vacation. Swimming is a must, another language is a great asset, and from the time they’re babies we sock money away for post-secondary education. We teach them how to share, say “please” and “thank you”, how to shake hands and look someone in the eye – all those things that will help our children function in society and achieve their hopes and dreams.
However, my daughter reminded me recently that perhaps equally important are those things that we don’t plan. Just as they do at the end of every June, my kids brought home folders full of schoolwork they had done all year. I came across a piece that said “Families show love by…” and the kids had to fill in the blanks. My daughter’s reply was “dancing together”. Beneath the words was a drawing of my husband and me and our two daughters dancing. Without even asking, I knew the exact setting of her picture. She had drawn our family in the kitchen where we often have spontaneous dance parties after dinner.
At no point did my husband and I ever sit down and say, “When we have kids, let’s make a point of dancing with them in the kitchen after dinner”. It just happened, but I love it that that is something they think is special and will remember. The sound of music brings life and vitality into our home and they see that their dad and I love not only them, but each other. They see that life doesn’t always have to be so serious, and that it can be spontaneous.
This got me to thinking about the concept of leaving a legacy. What will I leave behind when I’m gone? What will my children and grandchildren know and remember about me? How am I using my time on this planet?
It may sound cliché but I know one thing for sure – when all is said and done it will not be about the money or the house or the car or the clothes or the career. Our kids won’t care if we had flawless skin or perfect teeth. They care about time spent together and the memories we make – the fun, the songs, the stories, the laughs and the love. Our day-to-day actions with all the silly impulses and random acts, the quirks that we’re not even aware of, are the things our kids will miss the most. You only get one shot, so cherish the gift of time with your children and leave a legacy of which you’ll be proud. As the co-owner of Salsa Babies®, it’s not a huge surprise that I love this analogy, but in the words of singer Lee Ann Womack, “I hope you dance!”