Today Lars and I rode bikes, we played superheroes at the park, we ate Chick-fil-A and emptied out his backpack on the carpet by the front door. He jumped on the mini-trampoline and counted to nine: “1,2,3,4,5,8,7,9.” We played “Jet Larsen.” I checked his wings for damage and fed him “jet fuel.”
In the moments between, I was able to make a phone call, a birthday wish list, make breakfast and dinner. I was able to Face-time my mother, talk about a wedding with Jules at the park. I was able to wash dishes, take a shower, check email. I even got in a 35 minute run on the treadmill today.
Life is good at age 3 – both for Larsen and me. We’ve reached a good balance.
I think stay-at-home-parents struggle to find the right measure between presence and pleasure (or just plain work sometimes!) because of our physical proximity. I often wonder if it appears to Lars I am here just to fulfill his needs because he can find me easily.
Those nubby little fingers sneaking under the bathroom door seem to illustrate this. “No breaks on my time, Mom!” I imagine him thinking.
While I like to play superheroes with my son, it doesn’t mean I am one. I am human. I can’t sustain this magical quality of presence all the time. Today was a good day.
The older Lars gets, the less I am needed, so it seems age has also played a part here too.
I love being his mom. I love being the one he asks to play with. I love the snuggles, the smiles, the gift of connection with him. One day he’ll go off to college and these glorious days will be forever gone.
If I truly give him my presence – even when I’m so over playing jets – it fills him up, and I get more free time. He gets what he needs from me and is then ready to play independently. It works for us.
And there are times where I tell him things like, “First I will finish my phone conversation, then I will play outside with you,” or “First I will finish my writing, then I will play soccer with you. My writing time is important to me.”
This is a huge adjustment for him. Developmentally, he can understand mom is a person who needs free time just like he does, but his impulse control is still maturing. The language I use is important too, for it acts as the bridge to understand these major concepts of time and relationships. This “First and Then” terminology keeps me on track and is something he can mentally follow.
Finding balance is a huge determinator of one’s happiness as a parent. I’m sure of that.
So, no I don’t always get to read my book or put on make-up before every outing. But I get to hold this little boy’s hand when we play at the park. I get to have someone turn to me and say, “Mom, this is so cool that we get to ride bikes together!” I get someone who misses me when I’m gone for half an hour.
Rather than giving something up to find more equilibrium – like telling myself “I’ll get to read tonight when he’s asleep” or “Dad will be home soon, and I can write then” – just simple and focused giving has brought me balance. When I really play jets with Lars and my mind isn’t on my to-do list or the new blog I want to write, when I truly give my attention, our day seems to flow better.
We actually are superheroes. That’s how they see us. It’s these uncomplicated, real, and consistent times that illustrate it to our kids and remind us of our power.
(But don’t think this supermom isn’t excited for preschool to start this fall!)