My husband has been out of town all week. My two oldest kids have been at scout camp five hours away. And we've had painters in our house since Monday, leaving chaos in their wake for me to return to order: furniture, bookshelves, more bookshelves, rugs. I'd kind of been dreading this week, worried about how I was going to entertain my youngest two while trying to still getting 'things' done. You know . . . things: cooking, cleaning, laundry, errands, editing, revisions. They're all very important things. Until they're not.
The books are on the shelves again. But the cooking has never really happened--neither has the cleaning or the laundry or the errands. Editing? Minimal. Revisions? Not so minimal, but at least manageable as I've realized I don't have a deadline so I don't have to push myself to the teetering edge of despair.
Instead, I've gotten other 'things' done--little things: a couple of library visits, two lunches out, a concert in the park, a night of popcorn and a movie, sleepovers in my room.
It's turned out to be one of the more perfect weeks I've had in a long time.
When your kids start to get bigger than you, they don't just take up more room; they take up more space. They're louder, more insistent, more opinionated. Their emotions aren't limited to the temper tantrum over the wrong kind of juice in the morning or the frustration of trying to figure out how to reach a cup without my help or the anger of being told they can't have ice cream for dinner. They're not only bigger; everything they feel and say and do is bigger.
So I'd forgotten lately how gloriously small life can be with a five- and an eight-year old. I'd forgotten how happy another bedtime story makes them. I'd forgotten how exciting taking the time to pet a strange dog can be. I'd forgotten how beautiful a new wall color can be when seen through the eyes of someone who thinks just about everything is beautiful--especially if it's yellow. I'd forgotten, I'm ashamed to admit, how to be a mom to someone I still have to look down to.
I gave into repeated pleadings this morning and took the kids to Chuck E. Cheese's. I took a book with me, thinking it was the only way I'd get through an hour or so of the sound of electronic games and whack-a-mole and an animated mouse singing pop songs. But the second we got there, and I saw how thrilled my kids were to be in what was a giant magic room to them, regardless of what it was to me, I didn't want to miss a minute of it.
When my husband and I were deciding whether to have more children after four, I told him that one of the reasons I wanted to be done was that I didn't want to feel like I'd overlooked any of them as they grew up. I wanted to be able to spend time with each child and not have them hit eighteen and for me to realize, "Crap. I never really got to know that one."
I've missed a lot of moments of my kids growing up. It happens whether you have one or twelve. There's always laundry and cleaning and cooking and work and a paint crew coming in to pretty things up a bit while you stumble around underfoot--all important stuff until it's not. But I've always felt like I've been there for the big things. I'm a stay-at-home mom, even if I work from home. So without having to take time off, I'm there for concerts and plays and doctors' appointments. I'm there when they're sick. I'm there when they walk in the door after school.
But I haven't necessarily been there for the little things, even if I think I have been. Perhaps it's part of being a stay-at-home mom--this surety that "if they need me, here I am." So I don't slow down when I should. I don't look down when I should.
I look forward to having my older sons home again. I've missed them. They're good company. They make me laugh. They seem to like me, too, which is always a plus with teens and tweens.
But I'll miss my time with the little guys, too. I feel like for a week here, I've been able to sneak away into a place where time just kind of held itself still now and then so I could pay more attention to it.
So I'll just have to make sure I keep paying more attention to the little things, because they're the ones I'm going to remember when the kids are all grown up and too big, and when the giant space they once took up is empty.