I’ve never been that mom–the one who whittles miniature squirrels out of sticks gathered from nature walks with her children, then uses the excess shavings in a homemade, wholesome kale and wood-chip soup.
When I had all of the time in the world to play with my daughters, I took food-coloring to pudding–once–and let the girls muck around with it for an hour or so.
It’s a blur now, what I did when I had all of that time. My kids are here living with me, still, so I must have fed them.
But I’m back to work now, and in my quiet hour of the week, when I have time to reflect, I think–if only I were home with the girls again, I would teach them Italian. We would build patio furniture from teak wood. We would solder together puzzle pieces of stained glass, arranging them into beautiful patterns.
I am not a multi-tasker. I don’t have that instinct. My husband and I joke that if I were on the show Survivor, I would die, instantly.
Even in the comfort of my own home, when I have too much to do–clean, shop for groceries, go through the piles of papers coming home in truckloads from my kids’ school, grade my own stockpile of 7th grade essays and quizzes–I tend to react by sitting down and checking my email. Then I’ll turn on Pandora and have a genuine discussion with myself about which channel to listen to. I just don’t get a lot done these days.
I get to the wine store. I fill the pantry with on-deck coffee. And the rest is a complete crapshoot.
Before, maybe (this is just not true), I was more patient with my children. I thought by employing myself while my girls were in school all day, I would better appreciate the time that I have with them. But just this past Friday, our family movie night, when we all decided to watch the DVR’d episode of The Voice, when Lexi kept moving around, jamming her foot into my leg as we “cozied” on the couch, I found I had the patience of a lit firework. I kept saying, “Okay, Lex,” which in mom-speak means, “Can you please just stop fidgeting and distracting me from this mindless television program?”
Don’t get me wrong, teaching Lord of the Flies to a roomful of 7th graders is super-relaxing.
We’ve fallen back an hour, so at 5 a.m. I am awake with no going back. As hard as I try to stay in bed, eyes slammed shut, my mind starts to spin together a list of what really should be done by the end of the day. So I get up.
On my way to make coffee downstairs, I peek into the room my daughters share. A trace of light from the hall reflects and reveals something heart-crushingly big: Lexi on one twin bed, miraculously both sheet and blanket cover her wholly so she is warm. And Caroline, beside her on the other twin, wrapped up comfortably, too. They face each other: Caroline’s sighs are louder because of a cold, so even with my eyes closed, I can differentiate between the two.
But I take them in together, their steady exchange of breathing, back and forth. I stand and stare at my little dream girls, listening to their early morning song. I stay a little bit longer. I stare a bit more.