Leaking over the sides when the water tension can’t hold onto it anymore. Our want-to-dos, need-to-dos, live-to-dos, how-is-that-still-not-dones. They are filling up our days to the brim. So much so that I need to turn away and pretend there is absolutely nothing that I need to do. I pretend that I’m bored just like I used to pretend that my Barbie had two boyfriends and worked as a waitress. Totally for fun, nothing serious in it at all. Just pure, conjectural “what ifs”.
What if I was bored? I’m bored. Sigh. What should I do? What would I do if I could do anything I want? Sometimes, I then do that thing. Picture me editing new content for my portrait business while fiercely cuddling a half naked baby who is insisting on removing her diaper and clothes so that she can potty train. Sorry, honey but potty training is just NOT on the list of “what I would do if I had nothing else to do”s. In that fantasy world, I don’t even know what potty training is.
Speaking of endearments and fierce cuddling, Ben called Sister “honey” the other day when he was trying to gently break it to her that her methods of cramming whatever into whatever else were not going to work. “Not like that, honey…” he crooned. Then, when he liked the sound of this experiment, continued on: “No, no honey. Like this, honey. Try again! Try again, honey!” My heart, oh my
overwhelmed sweetly bored heart.
So many things are leaking over the sides. Gifts I should be sending, cushion covers I should be sewing. Dining room chairs that need replacing. Clutter that always needs decluttering. Meals I should be cooking. Friends that I need to call. Posts that need writing. Guest posts that I am now fairly certain will never be written. Damn it. Watercolors that I have done that haven’t made it through the editing stage and into the Etsy shop. With the kids at home and SO active, all day long, things just do not happen at the rate they used to. You should see me try to talk on the phone! It’s like stepping on an ant hill. Lazy, meandering efforts turn into full scale chaos and mutiny at that first word spoken.
And yet. Yet, with all the crazy, and all the fun, and all the overwhelming feelings, I meet them on the battlefield with calm as my weapon. Shortcuts and messy floors are not laziness, they are a rebellious act. I shall choose a happier parent and a happier marriage and happier children by choosing to close the door on that laundry avalanche. I’ve gotten better at deciding what things MUST happen now (Ben’s nebulizer treatments) and what can wait (laundry, picking up, play dates, couch cushions). I am keenly familiar with the “what if that never happens?” refrain. If I was gone tomorrow I would have done the important things, I think. I captured memories for lots of families and poured everything I had into them each time. The friends who put love and constant effort into our relationships get love and constant effort right back. My kids see enough of me to feel like I am around all the time, and they also see me working on things and telling them to use their God-given imagination. My husband has heard me tell him how happy I am that we are together and had such great kids- this week. The other stuff, it will happen or it won’t.
I just got back from being called by the kids. Now they are marching in here to the office to feed me pretend food. Oh, and to tattle on each other for grabbing and not sharing. I eat fake bites while I type. Alina spoon feeds herself with an adorably exaggerated “O” mouth and wide eyes to match. Her hair is just past her shoulders, thin and straight like her long legs. She is in 3T a full year before Ben was. I can barely keep up. When I went out to the dining room to check on them, Ben had cleaned up lunch, and even told me that Alina helped by throwing some trash away. I was so proud and I really drove that home as much as I could without embarrassing him. Sister said she pooped but she didn’t. She rubbed her eyes and I know it’s time for her nap but she was so excited to see Ben and scampered into the playroom saying, “Mon, Ben! C’mon!” that I let them play for a bit. They are both too tired, though and I can hear Ben whining out there now, even though he is very nice to her.
She misses him so much when he is at school. She comes in again and again with her shoes and insists we go and pick him up. This is always at around 9:30am. I have heard of kids, who, at four years old get themselves up and put on cartoons or play with their pad in the morning without even bothering their parents. Ha! Imaginary children. Ben still knows two buttons on the remote control and won’t think to get his pad until we remind him. So yesterday, Alina comes in while I am working and wants another Dora cartoon put on. We play them online through instant streaming, so once they end, nothing else comes on. I can hear that it’s quiet out there, so I know the episode is over, and I tell her no, it’s time she played quietly in her playroom for awhile, we had enough cartoons for the morning. She gave me total grump face and trudged out in protest. She is freshly two. A few quiet minutes later, I hear the opening notes to Dora and burst out laughing. That determined little thing! I let her have her victory.
She is super busy pretending she is three.
Ben, I have realized, just isn’t the type to ask for affection. He likes being cuddled but not as much as he likes having you stand near him and admire whatever he is doing. Such as, going to the bathroom. Or putting a ball down a tube. He also adores it when you help him do something he can do on his own- like putting on his clothes, shoes, spoon-feeding him, throwing his trash away, wiping his face, picking up his toys. This is his version of love. This is hard for me because a) I want to raise an independent man who feels very capable of taking care of himself. I specifically do not want to contribute to an entitled, wah-do-it-for-me worldview. But it’s just how he is feeling right now: I don’t really like hugs, but if you want to dress me while I go limp, now that would make me feel really validated. And b) because these are the things that are not my favorite anyway. Phew, I got really lazy and wasn’t sure I was going to finish that list.
BUT (more to the point), I think with Ben, the key is quality time, and I need to simply get with that program in a way that will work for both of us. Alina will crawl right into your lap and get that love that she needs. She will sandwich your face in her hands and put her eyes right in front of yours and tell you what is going to happen. HUGS NOW PLEASE. Ben will tell you he needs to go to the bathroom super-duper badly and then stand there fiddling with the doorknob. He will tell you, while laying spread-eagle on the floor, that he is stuck and he needs help up. He will tell you that he can’t put on his shoes by himself. He simply wants attention and time with you, but his methods need fine-tuning.
One of my hero writers, Nici Holt Cline, recently wrote: “There was more I had wanted to do in the garden before the ground froze. Now that to-do list is complete, no matter the items finished. In a world where we can control and manage so much, I appreciate things like seasons and birthdays that exist no matter our plans.”
That speaks so much to where we are right now. The wheel keeps turning, and sometimes the soil is turned or covered before we are ready. But I am so glad that Thanksgiving forces us to schedule time with family. I am so glad that Christmas reminds us to repeat the traditions that make us feel remembered and included. Birthdays come along anywhere you are, and visit your friends no matter how busy you have been, and give us reasons to invite others in, or reach out without provocation.
There is always an opening provided by this flow of remembrances, like the waves bringing the tide back in. It’s coming. I bow to it, despite the stress, and am always filled with gratitude on the other side.