Wide Awake: Watching My Life Go By
VHS tapes are showing me the true story
By Marianne Aleardi

I’ve been watching my kids as toddlers and grade-school students for a few hours every night for quite some time now. I’m transferring our old VHS tapes to my computer, so I relive our past as it loads onto the cloud. It brings me joy and makes me feel depressed all at the same time. 

It’s funny how when your children are little you don’t realize their personality traits could stay with them forever. In one video, my two oldest daughters, Klein and Maura, stand arm in arm, looking into the camera, and Klein proudly yells, “Happy Birthday, Mike!” She’s about 3. Maura, who’s 18 months, stands grinning ear to ear, when you hear me say, “Ok, Maura, you want to wish Mike a happy birthday?” I prompt her about three more times until she finally says, “Nah.” She just keeps smiling. 

And that’s who they are, even today in their 20s.  

I’ve also been happy to see that I wasn’t as harried as I thought I was. Many of my memories of my daughters’ childhood are of me being tired or stressed or just way too busy to live in the moment. That may have been how I was feeling on the inside, but the outside tells a different story.  

I can see on the video how often we sat together, the times we danced and sang, how many afternoons we were in the backyard and how many times I just laughed at them and talked to them. Just the fact that I have so many videos means I was appreciating what I was lucky enough to witness. I always had this thought in the back of my mind that I was too tired to notice the joy while it was happening, even though it was right there in front of me. Now that those times are gone, it’s been a hard thought to reconcile, so seeing proof those thoughts may have been wrong is rather nice. 

On the other hand, some of the videos remind me I had every reason to feel harried/stressed/tired/busy. In one, we’re at an amusement pier down the Shore. Joe and Klein are on the teacups, and I’m with Maura and Marirose. I’d say Maura is 4, and Marirose is a little over 1. The wind is so strong you can hardly hear us.  

First you see Maura, who has climbed up onto the wall surrounding the teacups and is holding on – just barely – to the railing. Then the camera turns to Marirose, who is pulling our little red wagon. The camera switches to Maura as she’s asking me to get her down, and I’m telling her to jump since she climbed up there. Then it’s back to Marirose, who is about to take off down the Boardwalk, and I’m yelling for her to come back, pull the wagon over this way. The camera jumps back and forth between the two, over and over. (While, of course, Joe is having a great time on the ride.) 

But here’s the thing: I’m not freaking out. You can hear in my voice that I’m calm. I’m actually getting a kick out of it. I’m not wondering if Maura is about to split her head open, and I’m not worried Marirose is going to fall off the pier and get swept away. It seems I find the whole thing amusing. I never would have thought that unless I got to see it with my own eyes, which I did just last week. 

So now I have a message to anyone with young children: You might feel you’re so exhausted and overworked that you’re missing out. You might think you’re not taking it all in and enjoying the moment. But it just might be that you’re ok – that even though you feel tired, you’re still getting it. You’re feeling the joy. And you might be feeling it so much, that one day you’re going to miss it terribly. 

I hope you’ll join me on Oct. 9 for my one-on-one interview with New Jersey’s First Lady Tammy Murphy at The Westin. I promise we won’t talk politics (because who would want to watch that). I’ll be talking to her about her life experiences and what she’s learned along the way.

October 2018
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