After a busy morning of running errands, complete with toddler meltdowns and a brief episode of panic when I momentarily lost sight of my older one, I looked forward to spending the remainder of the day at home. I fed the kids lunch and as usual they dished out an extra serving of nonsensical chatter and whining. I was ready for a little down time, a breather, few minutes of silence.
So, I put my son down for a nap and set up the sprinkler for my daughter to play in outside.
I took a deep breath, opened my computer, and got to work while the house was quiet. With all the begging to play in the sprinkler lately, I figured the allure of cold water shooting from the ground up would keep her occupied for a bit. But within two minutes she barreled through the door, announcing that she was bored.
“Mommy, will you play a game with me?” she asked. “Yes, in just a second,” I responded without taking my eyes off the computer.
The seconds turned to minutes as I tapped away at the keys on my computer.
“Mommy, will you play a game with me?” she asked again. “In a minute. You just need to wait,” I said with a hint of irritation in my voice.
The minutes ticked by while the computer keys clicked away.
“Mommy, you said you’d play a game with me,” she said matter-of-factly. “I will in a minute!” I stated harshly. I desperately wished for some time to quietly focus on tasks that were important to me.
Moments later, my wish came true. My daughter heard the neighbor girl’s voice coming from outside, and she flew out the door, eager to connect with her friend.
She spent the next hour laughing and playing outside. The mix of friendship and sunshine filling her with joy.
When I finished up my tasks, I opened the back door and invited her in to play that game she had been waiting on me for.
“Do you want to come play a game with me?” I shouted across the yard. “No, mom, I’m busy.”
My heart sank. I had perceived my daughter’s request to play a game with her as nothing more than an inconvenience. But in reality it was an invitation to connect.
I realized that if I don’t make time for her, she’ll stop making time for me. Even at the age of six, her life is filling up fast. With friends and school and various activities. And while her life is still mostly centered around me, she doesn’t require as much of my attention as she once did.
She had wanted to play a round or two of a lighthearted children’s game, but turned her attention elsewhere when she realized that she couldn’t count on me to follow through. And I wondered how she
can expect me to follow through when the challenges in her life become bigger than a simple game of CandyLand. Challenges that will turn from lighthearted and leave her feeling brokenhearted and hard hearted instead. Challenges that will cause a change of heart when things get tough.
I spent the last few hours of the day feeling more glum than guilty as my daughter’s words hung in my head and wrapped themselves around my heart.
But as I tucked her in at bedtime, she said “Mommy, will you snuggle with me?” And of course I obliged.
Because I can’t change the past or fix the problems of the future. But I can be present. And I knew better than to turn down the invitation to do so again.
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