The other day my son popped his head into my room where I was sitting on my bed propped up with pillows, fighting the flu and nursing my six week old.
“Hey mom! I just passed this cool new level on my video game, wanna see?!” He was bouncing up and down, obviously so proud of his accomplishment and wanting me to share in his excitement.
“Um, ok …” I trailed off. “How long will it take?”
“Not long. Come see!!”
Long after this interchange has taken place and a few days removed from flu recovery, I am reflecting on this brief encounter with my son. It bothers me that I asked him how long it would take to see the thing he was so excited to show me. Granted I was not in the best shape to jump right up and match his excitement level, but I know that was not the first and only time I have ever asked him a question like that. Unfortunately there have been many.
They say kids spell love T-I-M-E. What then am I communicating to my children when I tell them I can play with them for “just a few minutes” or roll my eyes and ask “is this level almost over?” when my son is showing me a new video game. I am afraid to know the answer.
Of course I don’t want to raise my children to think they are the center of my universe. I want them to know that I have other important responsibilities and am not able to spend all day every day following their every imaginative whim. But maybe I can take a step back and realize that dishes and laundry and email answering should not always take priority over playtime. Because since when did making sure the dishwasher was emptied become my ultimate goal as a mother?
I have heard it said that life is all about balance – somehow equally juggling all the things and wearing all the hats. I reject that theory. I reject it because there is no way I can daily give of myself equally to keep up with all the things that go on under our roof. I say life is more about choices – making the best choice for how to spend my time in that specific moment. There is a time for everything and so often there are times when I am truly unable to take the time to sit down and play princesses with my daughter because dinner really needs to be made. But there are also times when the crumbs under the table can wait and I need to let myself get cozy on the couch with my kiddos who asked me to snuggle and watch a movie.
I don’t want to look back on my child-rearing days with regret that I didn’t take the time to sit and play or take a walk on a beautiful day because the chores inside or red facebook notifications took precedence. Because I guarantee that in twenty-five years I won’t remember that one time when clean laundry stayed in the dryer for a week or I didn’t respond quickly to that handful of emails. What I will remember are memories, moments, laughs, taking time to be together. And not time that is measured by a few minutes that I squeezed in between chores, but time that I chose to spend and be present in the lives of my sweet children. Because sometimes at the end of the day success looks less like an empty sink and vacuum lines in the carpet and more like lego creations and playdoh shapes. Because spending time building a relationship with my children and communicating all my love to them really is the most important thing.