Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Parenting 11 Minutes at a Time

You know those parents who get up early before their kids so they can get work done around the house and then be really present with their kids?  I am not one of those.  I love sleeping and when I have a four-month old who doesn't love sleeping, if my two year old sleeps until 8 I will cuddle that baby so I can catch just a few more of my less-than-40 winks.  Usually at 10pm I have the intention of getting up early, doing my long forgotten yoga practice and making a healthy breakfast.  But after multiple wake-ups in the middle of the night, the mere thought of getting up before my kids is ludicrous.

So it went with this morning, Soren slept really well last night, I would imagine it was because he finally had his lamb back, after a whole night without it, and he woke up relatively happy at about 8:15.  (And yes, I know that it's amazing my toddler sleeps that late, I am not complaining.)

I told him last night I would make him banana pancakes in the morning, and so I did.  I was going to make good on a promise I made.  Granted in order to make them and not irreparably burn either of my children, he needed an adequate distraction and when nothing seemed to suffice, I caved and gave him the Kindle so he could play train puzzles.  As I stood there mashing ripe bananas I felt guilty about how I was not present-enough.  I thought about how my mom and grandparents didn't rely on technology to keep us busy, they must have just had magical obedience charms and the patience of Job.  And so I made pancakes, and he ate five.  We giggled about taking bites and named the shapes that the pieces were in, I stemmed a melt-down when one of his square pieces fell apart by making funny faces and assuring him that the pieces would still taste fine after they broke.   Five pancakes for him, four pancakes for me, a little brother in a Bumbo seat watching it all.  From plating to wipe-down it was about eleven minutes.

Then came dishes and arguments over train puzzles and the ever-present task of feeding Jude.  Coupled with calls from the chiropractor and a message about Jude's appointment tomorrow at Seattle Children's to check on his kidneys, I was undoubtedly not present.  I was a mom but there was no active parenting happening.  I wasn't teaching him anything other than the fact he has my threshold for questions and breakdowns totally dialed in.  Finally I put on the movie Cars, which he has seen at least 30 times, simply so I could make my coffee.

I fed Jude, slathered Nutella on another banana pancake, immediately told myself I didn't need the extra calories, ate it any way, checked my email, Facebook and Instagram and pushed down the glorious plunger on my french press as a little blond tuft of hair stuck up over the couch, and the animated distraction raged on.  Here came the pangs of guilt again and again.

And then I did something different.  I stopped listening to the voice that told me that watching tv is the worst thing I could ever do.  I put Jude down in the swing and he fell asleep and I sat down next to Soren with my cup of coffee.  He looked up at me and said, "Mom, I want to snuggle you."  Done.

For the next eleven glorious minutes, I sipped my coffee and wrapped my arms around my son and was there.  I was present even with the tv on.  I whispered in his ears that I loved him so much.  I didn't check my phone as it buzzed on the kitchen table behind me.  I didn't think about the work I had to do, or how I was going to book my next wedding or how we were going to pay Jude's mounting medical bills or when the next time I was going to get a shower was going to be.  I didn't tell myself, "Ok, ten minutes here and then back to real life."  I let time pass, I cried momentarily as I realized how much taller Soren sits than he did last week.  It wasn't an hour of presence or a whole day but it was eleven minutes of heaven.

And then Jude woke up and pooped.  The phone dinged at me again telling me I had a voicemail.  I honestly had to stop Soren from drinking the bottle of syrup that was left at the table and then immediately had to comfort him at the loss of his syrup-drinking privileges, which he has never had but apparently felt a great mourning over the loss of them.  My eleven minutes were up.

But as I sit here, my coffee is cold and Jude is hitting his limit on his bouncer and Soren keeps listening to the first six minutes of Winnie the Pooh stories on the CD player he learned how to work, I realize that I will have another eleven minutes today.  And when I think of the times in my childhood that make happy memories, they aren't hours up on hours, they are moments.  I just hope he remembers these.  Until then, like I said, my coffee is cold and that needs fixing and Soren has his trucks.