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A Rare and Beautiful Gift

3 Things by Rachel Stafford, Hands Free Mama

3 Things by Rachel Stafford, Hands Free Mama


I spent much of my life wishing away time. On one too many occasions, these hasty lines came from my lips:

“I can’t wait for school to start.”

“I wish the warmer weather would finally get here.”

“When is it going to be Friday? This week is killing me.”

“I can’t wait for her to be able to ride in the booster seat.”

“I look forward to the day she stops sucking her thumb.”

To put it bluntly, I wished time away. But that all changed one day as I watched my child intently studying a dandelion she picked in our backyard.

“If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?” I asked curiously anticipating what my then four-year-old daughter would say. I expected her response to involve seashells, princesses, cotton candy, or Toy Story characters. But surprisingly, it didn’t involve any of that.

“Picking dandelions with you,” my child replied without a moment’s hesitation.

Out of any place in the world she could dream of being, my child chose to be right where she was in that very moment.

It was so simple. So obvious. But most of the time, so incredibly difficult.

Because in this fast-paced, task-driven, media-saturated world, slowing down takes effort. Allowing oneself to simply be in the moment at hand is a rare and beautiful gift. How easily I forget that there is no guarantee that tomorrow will even come.

Or that tomorrow will be as wonderful as it is today.

Thanks to the wisdom of a child, things are different now. Instead of wishing time away, I find myself hoping time would stand still… so I could savor it just a little more.


At the conclusion of my children’s sporting events and musical performances, I always felt the need to give feedback, constructive criticism, or “helpful” hints.

Then I stumbled upon this powerful insight based on three decades of research by Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller of Proactive Coaching LLC.

“When hundreds of college and professional athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame, their overwhelming response: ‘I love to watch you play.’ ” (Source)

I decided to give it a try after my daughter’s swim meet.

Normally, I would have complimented her stroke formation or kick turn with a little correction thrown in for good measure. But this time I simply said, “I love to watch you swim.” For the first time ever, my daughter just melted into me.

With her wet head resting on my chest, I swear I could read her mind: The pressure’s off. My mom loves to watch me swim.

Since that day, I’ve left the constructive criticism to the coaches and the teachers. And judging by my kids’ smiles, fewer words and more love is exactly what is needed from me after they’ve given their all.


I encourage everyone to find a good hat.

A stylish piece of headwear that can be thrown on when you want to give yourself a little more time and a little less stress. I love the Mossimo fedoras from Target (maybe a little too much—please don’t look in my closet).

I started wearing hats when I ditched the pursuit of perfection. With freedom from perfectly-styled hair and other unnecessary pressures came the ability to have more fun. Now, I almost always grab a hat before I head out the door. Funny thing is, someone is following in my footsteps—because time is too precious to waste on styling hair when you could be singing a song.



Contributor: Rachel from Hands Free Mama
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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kristine June 18, 2013 at 8:12 am

    I am trying to contact the blogger of this page for permission to use content on my page… please email me

  • Kristin June 18, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    your TIP is just what I needed at this time ;) Thank you and I’m going to put it to use next week! xoxoxo

  • leighann June 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    This is so very true. And we often forget, children are in the now. I just experimentally i asked my daughter(3) where she would like to be right now if she could go anywhere……her response: “rihht here eating my lunch. I love you because my heart says i love my mama!” Thnx!

  • Hands Free Mama June 18, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Thank you, Kristine. You can email me at rachelstafford@handsfreemama.com.

  • Hands Free Mama June 18, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    That makes me very happy, Kristin! Those 6 words were a life-changer for me. It is my hope to share them with as many people as possible.

  • Hands Free Mama June 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Those are beautiful words, Leighann. Children are so wise when it comes to living a joy-filled life.

  • Yvette June 18, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Even though I am a much older mother (almost 51) of three children (two have already left the nest), I flew through life always wondering “what if”, “should I” and always afraid of trying to do things. (I have Bipolar). I feel like I have missed out, because of my own faults, on my things in my children’s lives. I now am realizing, with reading your blog, that I still can slow down and enjoy my children and what is to come . . . hopefully better ties with my children and grandchildren to come. Thank you . .. although still always anxiety ridden mom of three (who make up my heart as a whole).

  • Hands Free Mama June 18, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Thank you, Yvette, for sharing your heart. I truly believe that it’s never to late to live and love the way you have always hoped to–so to know this comes through in my writings is such a gift to me. On my 39th birthday, I wrote these words and I refer to them often:

    “I have today.

    Yesterday is gone. All the mistakes, failures, poor choices, and the things I wish I could do over … they are gone.

    Today stands before me with its arms wide open.

    All I have to do is grasp it.”

    I am so grateful to know you are grasping today and making the most of THIS moment. Thank you for sharing this journey with me, friend.

  • Julias Math June 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Your TIP is awesome. I am going to use it today (and everyday after when applicable.)
    thank you!

  • GoGo June 18, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    …and don’t wait until you’re a grandmother to learn all the above! ;+)

  • Susan June 18, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Thank you so much for your words! I look forward to your articles. As a busy working mom of two daughters, I quite often have the “working mom guilt” and get upset about the moments I miss, however I am learning to be more “being” and less “doing” and to enjoy the quality moments that I have with them.

  • Karen June 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Your tip about watching kids sports made me cry! So true and I will try it out this week

  • Elizabeth June 18, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    We have just started asking our daughter (3 years old) at dinner time what her best / worst moments were during the day… yesterday was a ‘home day’ and it wasn’t all pleasant; but we all survived. We got to dinner, and my husband reminded me about the questions – so I asked Lydia, and she originally came out with her usual ‘Everything Mummy’, so I prompted her on some of the day, and this time she hestitated and obviously thought a little bit harder, and came out with ‘Playing with my family together’! Awww – melt my heart, almost made me cry right then and there. The little things we do, that seem so insignificant to us – are what are moulding and shaping these special little people in our lives. Thank you again, for the reminder to slow right down and enjoy them while they’re little!

  • Janet Y. June 18, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    My mom always said, take time out to smell the roses! Meaning don’t rush your life away, but enjoy what is right in front of you…

  • Julie Sullivan June 18, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Because of you, my 1st grade son holds my hand as I walk him into school EVERY morning, and he squeezes my hand 3 times to say I love you, unless I beat him to it. People judge me and say I should teach him independence, but I’m focusing on what matters and loving every day, hoping it is not my “last.” Because of you, I put on my “to do list” every day: Play a sport with Shay. Even if it is for 5 minutes. His smile during that time compares to nothing else. Because of you, I don’t stress about crappy dinners, I wear fedoras, and my son got to watch NBA playoff game in OT until 9:15 on a school night with me (without any guilt). Because of you, I watch his facial expressions very carefully when he is telling a story, and I actually listen to every detail. Because of you, I greet him every day at his classroom door at 3:12 with “I see you!” Because of you, every video I make of his sports or school or cub scouts ends with the words, “I love to watch you….” THANK YOU for your writing, it means so much to me.

  • Flower Patch Farmgirl June 19, 2013 at 9:53 am

    I don’t know what came over me, but I bought a purple ombre fedora from Target and I’m in LOVE!

  • wendy @ mamaonetothree June 19, 2013 at 11:19 am

    lovely. I will take all this to heart.

  • Hands Free Mama June 19, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    With tears dripping down my face … thank YOU for taking the time to tell me this beautiful details of your Hands Free life with your precious ones. I can assure you, I will be printing your comment out, taping it to my mirror and will refer to it whenever I need to be reminded that sharing my struggles and triumphs to grasp what matters is so much better than keeping it to myself. I am grateful to share this journey with you, Julie. xoxo

  • Hands Free Mama June 19, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    And I am smiling just thinking about you rocking the purple fedora! Thank you for that!

  • Hands Free Mama June 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    I am so glad, Susan. This means so much to me. I carried around guilt for too many years. Finally, I realized it was stealing the precious moments of today. So grateful we share this journey together.

  • Hands Free Mama June 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    So lovely, Elizabeth! Thanks for taking the time to share and inspire.

  • kristen June 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    I recently came across your beautiful, inspiring words of wisdom…….. & have “stopped yelling”–s l o w e d WAY down…… & just started loving the moments as they come. =) I thank you for sharing, & so does my “little snuggle boy”~~ Ethan. (5yrs young)

  • julie June 19, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    My family has been playing that conversation game at the dinner table for YEARS. We call it High/Low. We’ve changed a few things over the years like a pick the first one and when theyre finished, they pass “the baton” so to speak to who they want to” (I always seem to be last) Sometimes the kids have several highs and lows. No one is supposed to interrupt but with 5 kids, good luck on that. I love the loudness and the giggles and the comfort from their siblings if they had a bad day! When we sit down, it’s the very FIRST thing my 7 year old ask for….”Mommy, HIgh Low, High Low Mommy! I never tire of hearing those little brains a clicking!

  • Beth Anne June 19, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    As a brand new Mommy to Holden, 2 years old, home from India, I’m so glad to be stumbling upon your words now! We waited two and a half years to bring our little boy home, and it always made me sad to hear mothers wishing for the day when their little one would talk, or go to preschool, or play soccer… Those things are all great, but the NOW is so wonderful! One thing I keep reminding myself as I’m wiping a nose again or reading the same story again, is that someday, I will wish he still needed me this much. These moments are so precious and so fleeting. Just today, Holden got a brand new scooter. I thought I was going to spend the last 30 minutes before bed flipping laundry and doing dishes, but instead, I chased Holden around and caught him and tickled him, and we had 30 minutes of pure giggling and fun. Wouldn’t trade that for anything!