Have you ever been to this place where it is raining for the third straight day, and you look at the clock and close your eyes in anguish because is it really possible it is still three whole hours until Daddy gets home from work? In this place you have no plan, nothing that really needs doing, or rather that your kids will let you get done, and so you begin to wait. And watch. And the clock moves slowly. And your discomfort and boredom and irritability are growing with each second the clock hands tick and you wonder if these endless, awful hours will ever pass by.
I have been there.
Whenever I go there, I remember a different time four years ago when I was a mother of just one. I had somehow managed a weekend away for myself and went camping at a music venue surrounded by lakes and oak trees. My best friend Alisha was there and we had all the sunshine and beer and time in the world. We listened to music and danced and sat and talked. I did not check a watch or clock the entire weekend. I was just happy to be breathing, walking, and living around other people I loved.
I did however miss my young daughter terribly, and when Sunday came I woke up early and drove my tiny car the six hours straight home to see her. I remember thinking on my drive home, “Why don’t I live all the days of my life like this weekend? When did I become so consumed with waiting until bed-time or weekend-time or Daddy-getting-home-time that I forgot to find the joy in the rest of the ‘times’ in my life?” No wonder I spent most of my mornings dreading the day before me and my afternoons wishing hours away. No wonder I often felt unhappy.
I picked up my little girl when I got home and felt her small arms around my neck and soft hair against my cheek and just breathed in my beautiful green-eyed kid, who smelled like she had been outside all day in the dirt and sunshine. In that moment, on an ordinary fall afternoon, I became aware of what I was missing out on while I was always watching the clock.
I know I will not love every moment of every single day like I love a great vacation. I know with my three young children I have to follow somewhat of a schedule to keep us all sane. We do have a supper-time, nap-time, bed-time, and get-the-heck-to-school-before-8:15-time. What happens in between all of that should not be me begrudging from one task to the next, always wondering is it time yet to move on, is it time to check off another section of my day?
I started thinking, what if there is more to life with my kids than waiting for bedtime? There has to be more to parenthood than just surviving from one minute to the next. What if there is a real life full of joy and love and work and thinking and helping and doing that is passing me by while I sigh and wait for the clock to get me to where I think I should be? What if I tried to enjoy my entire day with my kids instead of just going through the motions and trying to make in until they are asleep? Could I lose myself in taking care of them instead of constantly checking if it was nap-time, two-hours-until-supper-time, three-hours-until-bed-time, four more hours until everyone-is-asleep-and-I-can-have some-alone-time?
For me it was always checking the clock. Leaving my job and becoming a stay at home mom was hard. Feeling bored, I would often wander around my house wondering what to do and feel trapped because there was no where to go, nothing really to do with a fussy baby on my hip.
I now see what the ‘it’ is that I need to do. It is the books we read. The stories I tell them. The millionth game of princess tea party of that day. It is the laundry. The shopping. The how was your day I love you hugs. It is the teaching of how to put away dishes and dirty clothes. It is the endless, endless coloring that happens when you are a mom to three girls. The pet feeding. The bike rides. The countless swing pushes and dances in the kitchen when everyone is cranky. The search for lost shoes and special toys that fall behind the bed. The tiny discoveries of a new ladybug or frog or caterpillar. It is all of these small but important things that I miss if I am too worried about what to do or what comes next. I will miss out on really seeing my daughters. I will miss out on the blessing that is my life.
I will keep trying to simply let my day happen to me and take each minute as it comes, instead of always watching the clock for what I think needs to come next.