My oldest son is about to turn five. He is named William, after his great grandfather on my husband’s side. His middle name is James, after my father and other loved members of my family. William James. It’s a good name. But he was almost named Jack Bauer.
I’m not even joking. I’d been in labor for 25 hours by the time my first son was born. I hadn’t eaten. I hadn’t slept. Then, sometime during the last few hours, 24 came on the hospital tv. My husband and I were really into 24 at that point in time. We watched, using Jack Bauer’s escapades to distract us from our own 24+ hour adventure. Desperate for a quick finish to a long labor, we agreed that should our son be born before the end of the show, we would name him Jack Bauer. We would have done it. But he was born a few hours after 24 ended and we named him William James.
Sometimes I still think it would’ve been sort of awesome to have named him Jack Bauer. I mean… people don’t get much cooler than Jack Bauer. They say that Jack Bauer sleeps with a night light because the dark is afraid of him. And he once won a game of Connect 4 in 3 moves. When he was a kid, Jack Bauer made his mother finish his vegetables. And the word on the street is that Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.
And the name would have been appropriate for our little guy. I mean, our oldest son really is a little Jack Bauer. Nothing phases him. The kid could fall off the roof and he would just stand up, brush the dirt from his pants, and run off making an offhanded comment about how inconvenient that fall was. And he thrives on being busy. Down time is not a part of my son’s vocabulary. As his mother, this is very exhausting. By 8:00 am on any given day, he’s asked me at least 15 times what we’re going to do next. I’m in a constant scramble to keep my little Jack Bauer sufficiently busy.
Last week, the boys were on their spring break from school, which meant that I needed to work overtime at keeping everyone occupied. Part of my plan for the week included a trip to the zoo. I had it all figured out. I picked the nicest day of the week to go. We’d arrive when the zoo opened and spend a leisurely morning enjoying the sunny day as we gazed at lions, tigers, and bears. (And monkeys. I love the monkeys.) I packed a few snacks, some juice boxes, and my camera. Then, off we went.
Our adventure started as planned. But it took on a very Jack Bauer-esque pace. As excited as the boys were to be at the zoo, my oldest barely glanced at any animal before asking what was next. When can we see the tiger? When will we see the penguins? Where is the wolf? All the while asking about the snack, which he somehow spied me packing. Whoa, Nelly! Slow down and enjoy the elephant standing in front of you. Or the snow leopard, who in twenty-five visits to this zoo, I have never once seen. The snow leopard, with his piercing blue eyes, who is currently nose to nose with you, save for the pane of glass between.
But we booked it through that zoo, barely stopping to glance at each animal. Somehow, I managed to put the snack off to the half-way mark…the snack which he gobbled up too fast to taste, in order to get to the juice boxes that he spotted with his laser vision. The kid misses nothing.
Or does he miss everything? I mean, I spent the entire zoo trip telling him to slow down. Relax. Just enjoy the flamingos for a minute. Let’s not rush things. And then I had a revelation, about this whole idea of living in the moment. I admit, I don’t fully buy into the concept of living in the moment. I get it, in theory. But I’m a planner. To me the idea of living in the moment feels a bit reckless. I mean, what about preparing for the future?? If I wanted to live today like it was my last, I certainly wouldn’t be sitting on this couch writing a blog post. I’d be in Disneyworld eating at least eight of those chocolate-dipped Mickey Mouse rice krispy treats. Or swimming with sea turtles in Barbados, with a glass of rum punch waiting on the beach. Or on a lounge chair in the middle of a winery in Napa, with dinner reservations scheduled at French Laundry. But we’ve got kids’ college savings to think about, and retirement accounts that need feeding, and a home that needs tending. Sometimes we need to make choices today based on our hopes and dreams for tomorrow. Those things are important too. If only it were so easy to just live for right now…
But I recognize that striving to live in the moment does not mean to live recklessly, ignore responsibilities, or neglect planning for future goals. Rather, it’s a reminder to savor each day, be with the ones you love, and make each moment count. It’s the thing my oldest made me consider at the zoo. Slow down. Stop rushing. Stop thinking about the penguins when the flamingos are standing right in front of you.
As a parent, it’s easy to want to rush through some things. I’m in a rush for the baby to walk, because my arms get tired carrying him. But I know that someday I’ll miss the security of being able to keep him safely within my arms. I’m in a rush for the kids to do their own laundry, though someday, when they’re grown and off at college, I’ll longs for the days of folding their tiny t-shirts and briefs. I’m in a rush for the baby to sleep through the night, yet I know I’ll panic the first time he does. I’m in a rush for my living room not to be covered in small cars and trains, but I know they will only be replaced by lacrosse sticks and smelly gym bags. I need to slow down. Enjoy the evidence of small children dripping all over my house. Enjoy the snuggles. Pause to savor the giggles and try to find satisfaction in working through tantrums and tears. Enjoy the flamingos for all their beauty and imperfection. Worry about the penguins when we get there.
Southwest Chicken Salad
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons diced chiles (or diced jalapeño pepper)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (for mild/medium spice)
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 pound chicken breast, cooked and chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- 3/4 cup corn kernels
- 3/4 cup black beans (from a can, drained and rinsed)
- Salt and pepper
Combine the mayonnaise, mustard, diced chiles, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and garlic. Pour the dressing over the chicken, red bell pepper, corn, and black beans. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and additional cayenne pepper, as desired.
Links to previously posted Gourmand Mom chicken salad recipes: