This column reprint from 2007 seems especially apropos for a lovely spring day which I spent sitting at a desk drafting motions for continuances while my kids played outside in the sunshine.
Over the past few weeks several people have mentioned that they haven’t seen my column in the paper recently. I had to admit that the reason it did not appear when last it was scheduled was that I forgot to write it. I’ve forgotten birthday parties before, but you’d think, wouldn’t you, that a person could remember something that’s due every other month, on more or less the same day, that’s written in pen on the wall calendar? But life is so complicated and full of commitments. There is scarcely room left to write on my June calendar and the month’s barely begun. July and August are filling up fast.
Every Sunday night, my husband and I have a meeting at Shoney’s, away from the house and the kids, to discuss our calendar, plans for the week, and other business. All the waitresses know to expect us to sit there for a long time! Many times we have been approached by other customers who want to know what kind of business we are in. We just say, “Oh, we have five children,” and they all seem to think that justifies our need for weekly planning meetings.
It’s not really the kids, though. I’ve seen families with just a couple of kids who are serious about playing sports–their kids’ schedules are much more crammed than ours are. With seven people in the family, of course there are going to be more dentist appointments, more doctor appointments, more places to be–but the adults in this house are the ones whose schedules are complicated.
Even though I don’t work outside the home, lately I’m gone a lot. Church and community activities, errands, some time for myself and some time with my husband keep me out for many hours every week. And when I’m home, I’m usually working–laundry, dishes, cooking, writing grant proposals (my very part-time job) and acting as John’s legal assistant (a bigger part-time job). When I’m working, I’m here–and being here is important–but my mind isn’t on the kids; it’s on whatever I’m doing at the time, or whatever I’m getting ready to do next.
I celebrated a big birthday this year. I turned 40, and to soften the blow I spent two nights in a hotel downtown by myself. I combined a mini-retreat with resting and having fun–and enjoying the silence. One of the insights I came away with is that I need to “be in the moment” more. When I’m sitting at the computer typing and hear the birds singing outside the open door, I need to listen for a minute. Even though its hot in this kitchen sometimes I need to be aware of the changing of the seasons and appreciate the warmth of the summer sun shining in. Even the simple, homely little sounds like the dishes clinking in the sink as Teddy does his after dinner chores or the sound of the water running as Jake puts William in the tub can be reminders of what makes my life worth living now and of a time that won’t last forever.
With Emily getting close to college age already I don’t need anyone to tell me how quickly children grow up and how soon this time will be gone. I can already look back with nostalgia to the days when I had three little children at home, when going anywhere was a struggle, when there were usually two children in bed with us, when no one ever was ready to leave the park when I said so. Having three teenagers (in just a few more months) will probably be just as hard, and I may look back on it with fondness one day too. I’m so lucky, though, that I have the opportunity to have little kids again, because now I’m in no hurry to move Lorelei into her own room, and when she throws temper tantrums I just think it’s cute that she’s beginning to assert herself.
I know someone who said he couldn’t wait for his newborn son to get older so they could play ball together. I look forward to experiences I’ll share with my kids in the future, but I’m in no hurry. I’m going to try to remember to celebrate the gift of life embodied in my children not just when they are innocent little babies, but throughout their growing up years.