29.1.09

Check In, Not Out

The Girl just took me out for tea for my birthday. It was my idea because I could see she needed some one on one mommy time, and it was every bit as cute as it sounds. We walked about 4 miles round trip to a little coffee shop downtown that she's been desperate to go inside of since the day the new owner stood on the side walks and handed them free smoothie samples to promote his grand opening. The Genius Husband secretly slipped her a ten dollar bill to carry in her purse so she could pay when we got there and surprise me. The employees just about died of a cuteness overdose. I drank my tea and she her impossibly neon looking watermelon smoothie with boba concoction and we played snakes and ladders because it was the only kid game there that still had all the pieces.

I lost track of how many times during the hour long walk there, and the other hour returning, holding hands the whole way, that she said, "Mama, I really like being with you."

It's so simple really, to make her happy. She just needs to be with me, and she just needs me to really be there with her, instead of somewhere else in my head.

I won't candy coat this. Staying at home all day with small children can be mind-numbingly dull. This is why mother's check out. We can be at home with our kids, even making sure they have food and clothing and aren't painting themselves head to toe with peanut butter, but we're not really there. We are watching television, or talking on the phone, or surfing the internet, or thinking bitterly of all the time we once had to just take off and get a Starbucks and read a book without interruption, or composing sonnets and and blog posts in our head. The transition to mother is a difficult one. We think that if we could just get a break now and then it would make it easier to deal with.

But it doesn't have to be dull, being present with our children. And in that sentence I have revealed the secret factor, that of being present.

Children and their constant needs are an irritation... when we're trying to do something else. Imagine you worked in a daycare and children kept coming up to you and asking you to help them play with puzzles, or tie their shoes, or wanted to show you the picture they just drew. Would you find this irritating behavior? Probably not, because it's your job to be there with the children in your care. So why do mothers so often respond with annoyance to the exact same thing? Because our minds are somewhere else, because we are trying to get other things done.

"But I do have other things to get done," you argue. "There are toilets to clean, dinners to fix, laundry to fold and screaming babies to nurse and hold, I can't spend all day smiling at my children and listening to them as they babble about nonsensical things."

Of course you can't.

Or can you? Can you make your children part of the process? Can you get creative? Can you slow down enough to make space for them in the busy things that you need to do?

  • My 2 year old loves to stand on a stool and tear lettuce leaves for salad while I make dinner.
  • My 5 year old can fold clothes, and she enjoys it if she's doing it with me.
  • My 7 year old loves to help entertain the little girls by reading to or playing with them.
These are just a couple of ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

"But it is dull, dull, dull, to be all day without another adult to talk to." Yes, it is, if that's the way you look at it.
  • You are also getting to know your children as individuals.
  • You are building the foundations of a life long relationship.
  • You are watching a little person discover and learn.
  • You are remembering just how fascinating water really is, the way it feels and looks, just by watching your toddlers fascination with it as you play with it.
  • You are constantly being reminded of how full of endless wonders this life we are given truly is.

That's anything but dull.

To be present with our children makes them happier and makes our home more peaceful, as one would expect. But the truth is, it also makes mothers happier and more peaceful as well. When was the last time you really looked at and listened to that child who is always on your last nerve? I find it only takes a couple of minutes of truly paying attention to make me fall in love with them all over again, and remember that I wouldn't want to be anywhere else other than right here, right now, listening to them tell me they like being with me for the 20 time in a row.

7 comments:

  1. This is a really good post, Carrien. It goes for fathers too - perhaps even more so.

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  2. Rachel5:09 AM

    Very encouraging post! I have been stuck in the house the entire week with two sick kids and I am at my wits end!

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  3. Yay for interesting children! I completely agree. It's so easy for the mind to drift, but how insulting that is to them, to treat them as less compelling than the computer or daydreams! Thanks for the reminder.

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  4. I remember reading somewhere that the key to parenting is being interruptable. It's not so much about "quality time," if by that we mean putting our kids in the hothouse of our full attention. It means not writing this comment anymore because Pie says it's "come downstairs time."

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  5. Adam-You can tell all the dad's then. I only know about the mothering side of things. :)

    Rachel-I kind of love sick days, sort of. It's the one time I really just give up on everything but sitting on the couch and snuggling and don't feel a bit guilty about it.

    Rose-Hadn't thought of it in those terms but you're right.

    Bea!-I've missed you! And I think you hit it right on the nose. It's the attitude of being available when needed that counts. Thanks.

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  6. This is a constant struggle for me. I believe in it strongly. If I am not going to be present with my children, why am I home? But it is still a constant struggle. And my biggest distraction...why blogging of course.

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  7. YES!!

    I can't even tell you how much I needed to read this today. This exact thing has been in my thoughts so keenly - and while I make steps to be PRESENT, it can be hard...and very easy to beat myself up for failures.

    Word to the mother.

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