WIESBADEN, Germany -- "Maybe I did it, but I wasn't there."

As a mother it's my biggest fear.

To hold my daughter while she sucks from a bottle. To watch her tiny 3-month-old hand punch at a toy.

To see a toothless grin spontaneously spread across her unblemished face.

Maybe I will have done them all, but will I have been there' Did I connect' Did I drink in the moment' Was I really there'

Or was I too busy' Busy worrying about the laundry' Busy trying to meet a schedule' Too busy counting the days until my husband comes home from deployment'

One year ago, I wondered what I would learn during my husband's second deployment to Iraq. This is it. Be there.

Whatever is happening, no matter how hectic and tiring or mundane and tedious, be there.

Pick those things that are most important and be there. It's harder than it sounds.

As my newborn daughter changed - her cries came less frequent and her smiles more so - I wanted her to slow down.

My husband wasn't there.

Daddy was sometimes a pixilated-image on a lap top computer screen that would call out my daughter's name. He would see her grow through daily one-hour sessions on Skype. But really, he wasn't there.

Like all military spouses, I wanted my husband home to see his child grow.

My desires for time control should have created a paradox of devastating consequences. Slow down the time for my daughter. But speed up those days until my husband comes home.

Neither wish was granted. So there I was left with my growing daughter in my arms and my husband hundreds of miles away in a war zone.

I was in the midst of my powerless state when I heard Jane Fonda on the Oprah Winfrey Show reflecting on her life as a mother and grandmother.

Fonda told a story about lying next to her grandson staring at him. As Fonda went to break her gaze her grandson grabbed her face.

"I'm not ready," he told her.

Hadn't she done that with her own children - lain beside them as they drifted off to sleep, asked Oprah.

"Maybe I did it, but I wasn't there," said Fonda.

The experience became an epiphany for her. For me as well.

Life is full of little moments when we forget to connect - moments when we forget everything that's important.

I'm not ready for my daughter to start pushing herself up from tummy time. But I refuse to miss those moments when she cocks her head back and gives me that toothless grin.

I live in those moments. And in whenever I have the chance to angle the laptop to view her smiles and kicks, screams and giggles, my husband lives in those moments too.

And so without the powers of time travel or ultimate control of the universe, I relinquish control of my experiences to the here and now.

Because when my daughter is older and has a child of her own, I want to be able to say "I did it, too, and I was truly there."

Page last updated Mon December 27th, 2010 at 10:31