The other night, I was reading a book to my girls before bed when I realized I was reading it as fast as possible. I don’t mean speed reading— more like, as fast as I could without my girls taking notice. I was reading enthusiastically and stressing all the right words, but I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was saying. I was thinking about what I was going to do after the kids were in bed— write a blog post, eat some ice cream, continue binge watching The Blacklist with Mike, etc.
I was, as they say— not in the moment.
But it’s more than that. Lately, I feel like I’m always in a race to the finish line. The finish line being “dropping Mazzy off at school”, “putting Harlow down for a nap”, “getting the kids to bed”. It’s like I’m racing through my time with the kids so I can be by myself or with my husband or my co-workers.
I love my girls and I swear I like being a parent, so why aren’t I taking a moment to enjoy the time I’m actually parenting?
If I was on my own with them all day, every day, I could understand needing a break, but I’m not. I wake up with them in the morning at around 6am, get them ready, drop off Mazzy at school and then I go to work. I come home at around 5:30pm, relieve our nanny, play with the girls and aim to have them asleep between 7:30-7:45pm.
I should be cherishing every moment I am with them. As they say.
When Mazzy was just born, I remember my mom and I standing over her while she slept in the bassinet. She said, “When she’s asleep, you’ll want to wake her up and when she’s awake, you’ll want her to go back to sleep.” There was comfort in my mother acknowledging that a sleeping baby felt like relief. But I thought that feeling would get left behind with the baby stage. Surely, when your kids are walking, talking little people with budding personalities, you relish the time they are awake more?
I’m not talking about the bad moments when everyone is misbehaving and you can’t get your kids to listen to a thing you say. I’m talking about the regular moments when your kids want you to play “princess” or build a tent with the couch cushions.
Mike and I often talk about how it’s a lot easier now with the girls at ages two and five. We communicate with them effectively and they sleep through the night. We can even reason with them sometimes when they are acting badly. We are testing going out to dinner with them again and realizing they are pretty good on road trips.
I watch Mazzy and I am so proud of her. She is beautiful and full of love and so funny. She likes me to make up stories. When I’ve told enough and don’t want to continue, she says, “Just tell me very short stories”. Then she’ll see Harlow wipe her nose and say, “Once upon a time, Harlow wiped her nose. The end.” And I’ll say, “Once upon a time, Mazzy told a story about Harlow. The end.” And so on. We laugh and laugh at our mother-daughter private joke.
Harlow is so cute I can barely stand it. She cracks Mike and I up with her dancing and her singing and her ridiculously high-pitched voice. Even when she’s mad, she’s hilarious. When Harlow feels she has been wronged in some way, she stomps over with this pissed-off-pursed-lipped look she has perfected and scowls, “Mazzy took my crown!” or “Mazzy kicked me!” Then, just in case we don’t understand the severity of the offense, she’ll kick the air violently to demonstrate. I try my best to take her seriously, but it’s so adorable, I have to stop myself from laughing.
I want to freeze both my girls in this moment in time, so they never get older. It makes me so sad to know they won’t always fight for space on my lap or climb on top of me to cuddle or knock me over at the front door when I get home from work.
So why do I parent like I want it to end?
There are legitimate deadlines, of course. If I don’t get Mazzy out the door at 8:10am, we miss the 8:14am bus, meaning we are late for school. If I don’t get the kids in bed by 7:30pm, they “miss their window” and will be up chatting and singing for the next hour, which will make them cranky the following morning. I have very good reasons for keeping them on a schedule and getting annoyed if they try to push the limits I have set. Getting lax about the schedule occasionally won’t work, because if my girls see an opening, they’ll pull it apart until we’re all eating sugar cookies at midnight.
I don’t have an answer, except to make more of an effort to enjoy the time between the deadlines.
The bus ride to school for instance is lovely. Mazzy and I ride the public bus together across town. Once we’ve boarded the bus, we’ve reached the finish line and can relax for the next twenty minutes to school. At school, the parents are allowed in the classroom until 8:45am. That gives me an additional fifteen minutes of stress-free time with Mazzy. We sign her in, we answer a daily question on the white board and then we either read a book or draw together. It’s easy to give your kids your full attention when you know the teacher is kicking you out the door at a specified time.
The time I really need to work on is the evening. I have to stop thinking about dinner time as a countdown to bedtime. I need to set a timer so I am not always looking at the clock. Or maybe I have to start the bedtime routine earlier so I am not rushing through a book at 7:29pm.
I’ve always hated the people who say, “it all goes by so quickly”. That is the very last thing any parent wants to hear. But now I realize I should give that phrase more thought. Maybe it’s not said so I can feel like time is out of my control, but to remind me to apply the breaks a little in my head.
I want to stop rushing through it.
One bedtime book at a time.
If you like this post, make sure to follow Mommy Shorts on Facebook! Want Mommy Shorts delivered daily or weekly to your inbox?