Boy, it is a tough juggling act – this game of life, and just when I think I’ve got a good groove, a solid flow, one of the balls drops, and it’s time to stop and start over again. This time, it’s the mother in me who is shamed.
I grabbed a pizza on the way home from work (a rare occurrence) because I planned to spend the evening working on my smoke detectors, which were all down with various issues from wiring to cleaning, etc. Anyway, after feeding my kids and cleaning up the kitchen, I let them roam free while I worked on the detectors, running up and down to flip breakers, etc. Oh, forgot to mention that my two-year-old is sick. So, she was right on my heels the entire time, whining and wanting to be held.
I finally called my dad to come over and help with a wiring issue I couldn’t figure out. This entire evening I kept enlisting my oldest son to look after his sister. His idea of doing that was doing every possible thing to annoy her and make her scream without actually hurting her. Take her blanket, hide her favorite teddy, stand in front of her whenever she tries to leave the loft, and so on and so forth. And he’d been doing this sort of thing for the past week or so, I’d begun to notice.
Now, common thought is that this is normal behavior between siblings, but I’m here to tell you: not between my children. My son has always been protective, loving and patient with his baby sister from the day we brought her home – to the point where he goes in her room and checks on her every night after she goes to sleep, because he is so worried that someone will steal her that he has nightmares about it.
I was so angry with him for creating stress instead of helping me that I sent him to bed an hour early. He marched to his bedroom, stared at me and then slammed the door. Well, not to be disrespected, I threw his door open and charged into his room. He ran to his bed and burrowed beneath the covers. I was so angry that I couldn’t even speak, so I turned around went right back out of the room and shut the door.
After I put my sick baby to bed and made sure she was sleeping, I went into the room next door to speak with my other baby, my 8-year-old baby. I sat on his bed and said, “You have had a real bad attitude lately and I don’t understand why.”
“There’s a reason,” he said, cutting me off.
I asked him what it was and the words just started pouring out of his mouth. I sat there and listened to all of the things he’d been feeling and thinking about and it dawned on me that I hadn’t actually sat and had a real conversation with my son in quite some time. Sure, we’ve chatted and laughed about little tidbits; we’ve played games, kicked the soccer ball around and watched movies and episodes of Dancing with the Stars, but to actually have a serious conversation about how he’s feeling about things in his life? It was clearly long overdue.
We sat there and talked for a little over an hour, each of us making promises to do things better with each other, and I tucked him in and went to bed, making my own mental list of things that needed to be put on the back burner, things that I needed to neglect instead of my babies.
Of course, my selfish heart started lamenting the loss of the amazing progress I’ve been making on my next book, the photos that need editing that will be pushed off, the downstairs floors that need sweeping and mopping (well…maybe not lamenting those so much), the book(s) I’ve been reading and want to finish, the text messages dinging from my phone…etc.
But soon my mother’s heart scolds my selfish heart into silence. There is give and take in any relationship, even in one between a parent and child. I just have to remember that it’s not about giving orders and taking advantage of the authority I have over these little people. It’s about giving the love that only a mother can give, and taking the wonderful memories to keep in my heart for the days when my babies are no longer running around my house each day, just looking for me to love them.
I take a deep breath and close my eyes, hoping that when I start juggling this time around, I will finally get it right.