Watching sleeping babies has never been my thing.
Other parents say this is one of the absolute joys of parenting, that there is nothing as peaceful in the world, that this simple activity makes all the trials and tribulations of parenting worth it.
I shake my head slowly, perplexed, and remember.
Back in the days when I could have watched my own babies sleep, what I saw was an opportunity to go sleep myself. I was sleep-deprived, and I've always been very practical.
If, by some miracle, my baby boys actually napped for more than 20 minutes, I seized the opportunity to do something productive. You know – laundry, dishes, vacuuming, 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 was steady, before I was off.
Now, a few years later, I spend hours each week watching my boys swim.
I often think to myself that perhaps I should do something productive. There is plenty of time to leave swim-team practice and run errands, go to the gym next door, make phone calls to neglected friends and relatives.
Nothing new or exciting happens at any given swim practice. It's not as though I will miss anything monumental if I leave. Jonah, my 9-year-old, complains, "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 exuberance, and full of fresh ideas, fervent eagerness, and – most notably – chaos. Spending time with them is often like getting swept up into a tornado. I love them for their raw zest and enthusiasm, but sometimes I just need a break.
Most of 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 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 energy, the flailing limbs, and the unpredictable explosions of 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. They are beauty in motion. They are the sun gently resting in my hands.
I sit at peace in the eye of the hurricane.
I have found my thing.