I got home late from work tonight. Missed the boys and Dave by a few minutes, I think. They’re off to soccer practice and workout time at the Y with dad.
Though the September sun was still shining mad and hot just down the road, our house in the shadow of the woods was dark and cool.
When I opened the door, I noticed the dryer and dishwasher going. As I flipped on the lights, I saw the tidy kitchen and dining room. Elves. I’ve wanted them since I was a little girl. Best of all, was the distinct aroma of Pillsbury crescent rolls.
In wonder and delight, I opened the fridge. Yes, the boys had made dinner for themselves . . . and they saved a plate for me. Two pizza roll ups sitting on a plate with a little dish of marina, covered in cling wrap. I called, just to be sure. Yes. They saved it for me.
It occurred to me, as I settled in on the couch in silence and put up my feet, that we’ve been parenting kids for twenty years.
As I bit into calorie-laden deliciousness, all the sleepless nights with the child who made them vanished. Well, technically they vanished a long time ago, along with the rest of my memory . . . But no. Actually, I remember the nights too well. Especially the year it seemed I sat upright all night, every night rocking, praying, singing, giving nebulizer treatments so the one who made these tasty treats could breathe.
Years ago, now. Fourteen. My third child. The one who introduced me to a new level of stress because for goodness’ sake, I only have two hands! How in the world am I supposed to hold onto the third one? The one who proved to me once and for all that I can’t do everything and expect to be good at it.
I left full-time career world when my oldest was born, wandering back in to education part-time here and there. But a few weeks after baby three was born, I realized I could not stay up all night with a sick baby, teach and go home to make dinner, do lesson plans, grade papers, and still have time for three kids.
This precious little boy who kept me awake at night, singing, rocking and praying took me to the absolute end of myself. He was the one that finally made me let go.
Nearly a year after he was born, sitting next to a bathtub of kids, I read an article that changed me. “Goodbye Dr. Spock” by Anna Quindlen was printed in Newsweek in November of 2000. I still have the article, water stains and all. These are the words that stayed:
I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.
Treasure the doing.
I took it to heart. I finally shelved the “how to be a perfect parent and have perfect kids” books and just plain parented. We cooked. We made messes. We had picnics. We went on adventures. We talked. We read stories. We made playdough. We painted. We spilled legos all over the floor and built things. We made towers and knocked them down. We sang. We banged on the piano. We had dance parties. We stayed up too late. We read all the books aloud. We skipped school to play in the snow. We got lost. We planted seeds. We made cookies for the seasons and decorated them. We all went to swimming lessons together. We tried homeschooling. We prayed long prayers and asked God for things like trampolines. We sat in the back of rehearsals til we’d memorized every line. We stood on the sidelines of soccer games in pouring rain. We played “what’s next mother” to clean the house. We yelled, and laughed, and we let our cat have kittens. I didn’t even try to be successful at anything else, I didn’t have time.
When the kids were all in school, and Dave lost his job, I went back to work part-time and it took years for us to figure out a new rhythm. Seven years later, the house has decidedly lost the battle for my time and I let the kids watch way too much TV. But the boys clean, do laundry, cook. It’s wonderful. My house isn’t going to win any prizes, but it doesn’t really matter. We work together so we have time for each other.
* * * * *
I wrote all that a few weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking about it constantly. Somewhere over the past few years, I’ve lost a little of the fervor for living the current season of my life. Sometimes, it’s wall to wall crazy and I don’t have a moment of quiet til after midnight. Like today — which I will tell you about tomorrow.
Treasure the doing more than the getting done today. Every moment adds up to life.
P.S. That’s my 14 year old’s baby face. And I still kiss it every morning and every night.
What’s your season?