This past weekend, my children had an appointment to see Santa at the local mall. I was pretty proud of myself for getting the appointment in advance so that we could avoid the torture that can be asking small children to wait in long lines. Inevitably, a last-minute sports practice popped up on our calendar, and it ended only shortly before our appointment. It was a mad dash to get the boys showered, changed, and in the car, but we somehow made it just in time. They walked right up, a lollipop I had stashed as we ran out the door and big brother’s hand kept the toddler’s tears at bay, the photo was snapped, and I triumphantly said ‘Done!’ to myself as we headed home. I exhaled and mentally checked this off my list.
Not long after I patted myself on the back, I started to feel a pang of…guilt, maybe? I’m not sure what word can best describe the feeling, but I realized that I was treating what should be a special memory-making experience as a chore, something I completed almost robotically. Anyone can look at the photo and think ‘Oh, how sweet’ when they see my boys in matching clothes and sweet hands embraced standing next to Santa, but they don’t see the mom behind it who was breathing a sigh of relief to just get it done without a major catastrophe.
The experience and the magic were not meant for me, though, and I know my older son loved getting time to tell Santa about his wish list. The little guy was happy to get a lollipop, and I have a lovely photo to treasure as a result. No one would know that I was not engaged in the moment if it weren’t for me admitting it here. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that it happens on occasion. How many calves have you seen born where you are so focused on a healthy delivery that you forget the miraculous nature of what you’re witnessing?
It can be so easy to go through the motions sometimes, and sometimes we miss the magic. I’m not saying it’s something we are proud of, but it is okay to admit it and just accept it happens. We put pressure on ourselves to get the desired outcome that we often miss the joy of the experience. We won’t be engaged in every moment, but I hope this holiday season (and also calving season for my friends in the South) nudges us each to take a step back and notice the extraordinary in what otherwise could be another task to mark off our lists.
Erin Massey is the product development manager at Prairie Farms, a farmer-owned cooperative based in Edwardsville, Illinois. She is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the development process, from concept to commercialization. Erin grew up on a Florida dairy farm and has a deep-rooted passion to invigorate the dairy industry. Erin earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Florida. Her personal mantra is "Be Bold."