This post was originally published on Zutano.
It had been a long afternoon, my 4 month old was fussy and nothing seemed to work to console her. After running through my checklist of possible causes and their solutions rejected, I was in the pacing, bouncing, pleading that she’d go to sleep stage. Not even wearing her in our favorite carrier worked. I was painfully aware that my other children were going to be very hungry soon and my stress levels at everything I needed to accomplish in the next few hours began to rise exponentially.
In rushed our intense 2.5 year old, waving around her favorite dress she found in the clean load of laundry waiting to for me to fold. Already stripped to just her undies, she insisted I assist her in getting the dress on and it couldn’t wait for her little sister to stop crying, she needed it on right now. I didn’t blame her. Well beyond 2.5 myself, I was starting to wonder if Sugarbaby would ever stop crying. Smunchie was probably afraid she’d have to wait forever. As soon as the dress was on she ran off again only to return a few seconds later with sandals. I knew what was coming next, once the sandals were on her feet she would want to go outside.
Thinking of all I needed to get done, all that was waiting for me to take care of, I wasn’t in any mood to take her outside with a screaming little baby. Tonight was one of the nights each week when I do bed time on my own while my husband is playing piano for our eldest daughter’s ballet class. My mental checklist rolled out in my mind and I felt tension that I was already running behind. I was just hanging on until bedtime.
Smunchie pulled on me, attempting to drag me to the door. Looking at her pleading face I wanted to tell her there was just too much for me to do to take care of everybody.
So I said no. Not right now. I had too much to do and Sugarbaby was upset.
Tears streamed down her cheeks as she jammed her little hands into her pockets and pressed against the front door.
“Pweese ouside, mommy. Wanna be wif you.” She pleaded.
It was true that dinner needed to be prepared, laundry folded, plans for the next day arranged, floors swept, some work emails tended to, beds prepared, outfits for the next day selected, dishes washed, bed time routine set in motion, and a crying baby needed comforting but the 2.5 year old in front of me wanted to be “wif” me. My checklist for the rest of the day was primarily about taking care of my children, the items on it were for them, and while I often involve them in the daily responsibilities for our family, on this particular day with a fussy baby, just being with my children had been glaringly absent from my list.
We went outside. One of our trusty old bed sheets accompanied us to provide a landing space for Sugarbaby and me. Instantly the tears vanished, replaced with a beaming smile and a little hand gripping mine. I admit, I was thinking maybe I could appease her with 10 minutes then we could go back inside for me to get back to that nagging list but within seconds of spreading our sheet on the grass under our expansive ash tree, Sugarbaby had stopped crying. Laying on her back looking up into the branches of the tree, she was almost completely still except for her eyes, moving slowly taking in the picture above her. Smunchie noticed and became very interested in whatever it was that had captured her baby sister’s attention enough to cause her to stop crying for the first time that day. Laying her head down next to Sugarbaby and her body going off in the opposite direction, Smunchie looked up and smiled.
I knew what they were taking in, the light playing in the leaves and branches of the tree whose shade we were enjoying. It had been a long time since I just laid on my back and soaked up the wonder of the world around me, slowing down enough to see things from a different perspective. Putting my head down next to my two littlest girls with my body extending off the sheet onto the grass, I watched the late afternoon sunlight dance through the leaves. All three of us were still, the longest bit of quiet I had in one stretch the entire day. The sounds of the breeze moving through the leaves, the squirrels’ chatter, and the audio evidence of life in our neighborhood was all that filled our ears.
The quiet was broken after a few minutes when Sugarbaby’s face appeared above me. “I be wif you mommy. I wuv you much.” And then my little girl that is still very much a baby laid on top of me, arms around my neck, and kissed my cheek. Holding her to me I told her the same “I be with you sweetie. I love you very much.”
Whether the pressures come from ourselves, our past, society’s messages, or cultural expectations as to what it means to take care of our children, it is easy to become so busy taking care of our children that we don’t find the time to be with them. Getting us through our to-do lists with our kids can be quality time together but if we’re not careful we miss interacting with them on their level, where they are because we’re too busy taking care of them. Children see things we adults often miss, their perspective and pace of life affords them the opportunity to lay down and savor the beauty of light dancing in the leaves. Putting a check by each item on our lists may cost us the time to share those small moments just to “be wif” our children.
I crossed just about everything off my checklist and added “Be wif.” All the things that had been on my list were taking care of my children, part of my job as their caretaker and they were important tasks. But not that important. Because my role as their mother included “be wif.” It is in that “be wif” space where the lasting memories are made and bonds are deepened. Most of the rest of the afternoon and evening were spent outside including the start of our bedtime routine with books, singing, and teeth brushing happening on the blanket. Two big sisters joined us when they returned from playing at a friend’s house and all of us enjoyed the evening outside together. We went back inside long enough to grab a thrown together picnic dinner that may not have been of the quality of the meal I was planning but the dinner of nut butter and honey sandwiches on whole wheat bread, carrot sticks, and strawberries was quality in an entirely different way. It nourished us to “be wif.”
To being “wif.”