May 6, 2021

The Essential Life Lessons From a 3-Year-Old
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I love traveling! However, when I first became a mama, I did a lot less travel than I would have liked. Actually, that’s not true. I had such a bad case of the travel bug that I dragged my husband and our twin 9-month-old girls to Hawaii. In my crazy and sleep-deprived mind, I thought it would be really fun to hop on a flight (with two car seats, a double-stroller, two door-jam swings, two baby tents and about 1,000 diapers) and have some R&R on a Hawaiian island. Oh yeah, super fun! 

After that interesting trip, I decided to simmer down on my travel plans until the kids got a little (a lot!) older. Well, then we had another baby, so that timeframe got extended another three years. Here’s a little mama freebie: I think four years is kind of the minimum golden age to start traveling again. You’re welcome.

So fast forward a few years to my current life situation: I have twin 7-year-old girls, an almost 4-year-old boy, and two teenage step kiddos. While the stepkids don’t always jump at the chance to travel with the younger ones, this mama is happy to be able to get some trips back on the books! So I enlisted my own amazing mom for a week-long trip to southern California for a beach week with the dynamic trio. 

I decided to rent a house right on the beach because sometimes, you just have to splurge a little in life (and sometimes, your credit card rewards actually come in handy…sorry Dave Ramsey). I wanted my littles to wake up and be able to play in the sand after breakfast. I wanted to be able to make them lunch while they built sand castles outside the back door. And I needed them to hear the waves, watch the sunsets and experience life at some of its most beautiful moments.

Nearly every night on this trip we watched the sun start to set and we would run out our back door to the beach, plop ourselves down and watch the sunset. This so quickly became our “thing;” our ritual. The kids didn’t seem to care nearly as much as I did but they loved to run on the beach, so they came anyway. We would run to the highest point on the beach, wrestle around in the sand, and then wait until the sun snuck behind the mountain. Then they’d often roll down the sandy mound, capturing sand and shells in their hair, clothes and teeth. But I didn’t care because I was on vacation and “Vacation Mommy” is fun, carefree and relaxed!


On our last night there, my mom and I were busy packing and starting to get ready for our long journey home the following day. We heard the twins yelling for their younger brother. They ran to me saying that he had gone out onto the sand, even though he had just taken a shower and was in his jammies. Not “Vacation Mommy” got frustrated that he was getting dirty again. I walked out and was calling for him (angrily) and then I caught it.


I had remembered that a few minutes before, I had told the kids that it was almost sunset. But I was so busy gathering the swimsuits, the flip flops and the sunscreen, already getting back into work mode, that I had quickly forgotten our ritual. When I looked out onto the beach, I saw my little guy standing by himself at the exact same spot we had for the last several days, with his face to the sun and holding his favorite toy up to the sky. When he heard me call his name, he turned and pointed to the setting sun. I knew at that moment that he was watching the sunset. He had remembered our ritual. One that I had so quickly forgotten.


It almost made me cry to see this 3-year-old watching the sunset by himself. I was sad that I so quickly got wrapped up in the To-Dos of life that I wasn’t out there in the sand with him. But after my sad fest, I was quickly overcome with joy that this little human, who I assume doesn’t listen to me a lot of the time, is actually acutely aware of what matters. He’s already understanding the meaning of ritual, of being in the moment, and taking in life for all that it has to offer.


I am grateful for these moments. These moments when I am humbly reminded that my children have just as much to teach me as I do them. And when I saw my sweet little boy standing on the beach and realized he was taking in our last sunset at Sunset Beach, I dropped everything and watched too.


I will never forget the day my 3-year-old reminded me of the greatest gift we have: this time, this moment, this now.

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