Holding the Moments

This past weekend we had two of our grandchildren stay with us for what they termed a “four night sleepover.”  Four nights is a long time for a 3- and 5-year-old to be away from their parents but the kids were well prepared and great. We are grateful for the fact that they are comfortable with us and in our home.

Still, four nights is a long time for them and a long time for us, flexing those child care muscles we don’t exercise all that often. One night “sleepovers” are frequent and two nights happen from time to time but those are usually filled with plans to attend some special event and the time disappears. Four days and nights in the deep chill of winter, well, it’s different.

Nonetheless, we found plenty to do, from walking the dogs to painting rocks, from baking multiple batches of cookies to playing numerous games of Monopoly Junior.  At night, snuggled in our pajamas, we’d watch a movie together before all of us called it a night.

When the kids were younger, they’d sleep on inflatable mattresses in our bedroom.  Now the 5-year-old insists on sleeping in the “big bed” in the guest room.  His 3 year-old sister joined him the first night and they both slept well. But night two resulted in a little “your space, my space” tussle and she ended up insisting that she sleep with “you guys,” as she pointed to Grandpa and me.  That’s the way it stayed for all three nights that were left.  No matter how much I tried to persuade her, “with you guys” was firm and I wasn’t going to argue.

Sleeping with a tiny child in the middle of a large bed doesn’t seem like much of a challenge.  But this little one sleeps the way I remember her daddy and uncles sleeping, in a way I’ve described as “sleeping with a tornado.” There are tiny arms and legs everywhere and she likes to move to a completely sideways position, taking up a remarkable amount of space for someone who is so small.

My sleep patterns are pretty bad on a good night so sleeping with our Princess resulted in very little sleeping and a lot of time to savor what it felt like to sleep next to a small child again, to watch her eyelids flutter against her perfect cheeks and see her hands clutch tightly to her blanket and her favorite doll “baby.” I had a chance to smooth her hair away from her forehead as she slept and to be amazed anew at the gift of children, at the joy of holding my child’s child and feeling that connection from the past to the future.

How often do we stop and savor the moments? How often do we try to save them and commit them to our memories forever?  We remember those moments of significance, both positive and negative.  We remember the big events and the impact they had on our lives.  But what if we stopped and held onto these little moments? What if we viewed them, simple as they are, as precious too?

I think the same lesson applies when we think about interactions with older adults.  So often we try to create moments with them that are of our choosing, to have a conversation or go to an event, to share a memory or talk about family stories. But what if, sometimes, we just let ourselves appreciate the moment of being in their presence? What if we held onto those moments and the gift they represent?

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is past chair of LeadingAge and the Association of Jewish Aging Services.