In Her Words
To Swing with Clouds
The chores can wait, but my children won’t
I was in the kitchen making dinner while my three children took turns flying onto my husband, who was sprawled on the living room floor, still wearing his suit and tie. The kids tackled him, tickled him and then thrashed to get away when, in fact, they were the ones who hurled themselves straight for Dad’s ribcage in the first place.
Dinner entertainment consisted of a corn-eating contest and knock-knock jokes that made no sense but caused milk to spout from noses. Dinner ended with Dad conducting a spoon-balancing-on-the-nose contest. I didn’t laugh. I just cringed at the mess.
After dinner, I cleaned up and my husband crouched behind a chair while the kids searched for him. Squeals erupted as Daddy jumped out and yelled, “Arrughhaww!” Everybody lunged in for more tickling and tackling.
Once the kids were in their pajamas, I felt a sense of calm until I noticed Baby Luke soaring through the air aboard a makeshift jet airplane (i.e., my husband’s big, smelly feet), while the other children raced around the room yelling, “My turn! My turn!” Luke’s doughy arms dangled midair as he kept a steady balance on his make-believe jet. Everybody but me laughed hysterically. I was too busy folding laundry.
When I’d had enough, I bellowed, “Slow down! You’ll rile them up and they won’t go to bed!” As usual, I got to be the “heavy” in the family. I am the mean one, the keeper of peace. Luke hung midair, secured now only by one large foot. He was belly-laughing so hard I was sure he would fall and crush his little skull. Then, my husband looked at me like he’d never seen me before, like I wasn’t even the mother to his children, and asked, “Do you ever play with them like this?”
Was he kidding? “Of course I do!” I answered defensively. Then I looked at my oldest son for validation and asked, “AJ, I play with you, don’t I?” “Yeah,” he answered. Later, privately, AJ came to me and said, “Actually Mom, you don’t really play with us all that much.” My heart sank.
After I was able to regain consciousness from AJ’s innocent blow, I took inventory of my average day. I don’t really play with my kids. We wake up, I feed them and help them get dressed, and I take them to school. When AJ and my daughter, McKaelen, are in school, I run errands, take Luke to a tot class or join a playgroup.
All too soon, it’s time to pick the kids up from school. We usually have lunch, meet friends at a park, go to the library or run more errands. It’s 2:30 and I have not had a minute to myself. It’s go, go, go and go some more. Do I lounge around and watch Dr. Phil? Believe me, I would love to. But there’s a job to do – a non-stop job – and somebody’s got to do it.
Before you know it, it’s time to start dinner, do some laundry and straighten up. If it’s a nice afternoon, we’ll take a walk, draw with sidewalk chalk, blow bubbles or I’ll push the kids on the swings. I guess none of this can be considered “playing” though, because, according to AJ, I do not play with them.
Being Mom is a serious job, but sometimes I guess I take it too seriously. With most jobs (aside from camp counselors or clowns), you don’t play while you’re on the clock. I realized, after my discussion with AJ, that I needed to revamp my job description and add time for play.
So today at gymnastics, instead of watching from the sidelines, I walked the balance beam with my kids and rolled on the floor with them. At the park, I played Hide-and-Seek and slid down the slide. I raced with them across the field, and I marveled at the ladybug they discovered. I felt what they feel every day – that pure joy of being able to play with no stress to preoccupy their little minds.
I pushed my worries out of my head, and I concentrated on things that mattered. I wondered, if I went high enough on the swing, would the tips of my toes actually touch the clouds (the ones that looked like ice cream cones, dinosaurs and fish)? I hoped so.
No one is ever going to fire me from my job. This is a self-created position, and I make the rules. And if the kids don’t have clean shirts or the dishes are left in the sink an extra day, are we any worse off? Will the kids complain that the house is a mess or that they are tired of having peanut butter and jelly or macaroni and cheese for dinner? Will they beg me to stop playing Barbies, “dance party” and “restaurant” with them? At this stage in their lives, I am confident they won’t say, “Mom, we don’t want to play with you anymore.” That will happen soon enough and it will crush me.
I want my kids to remember that I could swing higher than anyone at the park, master the balance beam better than their gymnastics coach and blow the biggest bubble without getting gum all over my face. I want them to remember that I noticed what was important in their lives, and I delighted in every minute of it. In no time at all, I’m sure that what I’m doing now will be embarrassing for my kids. They’ll shudder when they see me whipping down a slide or screeching atop a hill, arms outstretched, bubblegum stuck to my chin.
For now, I’m going to relive my childhood with all the gusto and force that I can muster. Their childhood won’t last forever but the chores will. And the chores can wait. Who’s got time for laundry? I think there’s a swing out there waiting for me to take it to the clouds.