I’ve been ruminating lately on how much of motherhood is moment-to-moment. When they are very young, our children’s needs are immediate and small, yet they can quickly fill up a day. From the minute they are born, they start changing rapidly. Every day brings a new development, a new milestone or challenge. So much of their questions as they learn to communicate, first with grunts and then single words and then phrases and eventually complex sentences, are about what they want or need from moment to moment. Mine are always asking what we’re doing.
“Mommy, what can I do NOW? What are we having for dinner? What are we doing tomorrow?”
They see in small slices of time. There’s no long-term vision for the future in these little minds. Therefore, I started to think like this not long after becoming a mother. In these busy moments of mothering, I am often putting one foot in front of the other and thinking of what needs to be done NEXT. What diaper do I need to change now? What sticky liquid must I clean off the floor now? What meal do I need to prep for next? Who needs to get dressed? Who needs a ride to school now?
Busy-ness does not provide much space for dreaming or for long term vision. So as a mother I easily became entrenched in what was happening in my life daily, focusing on the fine details–not so much the beauty and great significance of the fact that my child can NOW hold their own spoon or get themselves dressed, but that it finally happened and freed me from their dependence on me for basic needs. I was often overcome by these little, immediate needs. I felt so smothered at times that I inwardly scoffed when older people with independent children would remind me how much I should be appreciating mine…right NOW in THIS moment.
I brushed their comments aside, knowing they were right and silently acknowledging that one day I will most certainly be in their shoes, feeling compassion and sympathy for a young mom struggling with her tiny brood, while also feeling a pull to make her aware of the treasure that she has in her young family. I brushed their comments aside because although they are most likely correct, what they said did not change the fact that in those moments, I was the one struggling. I was the one yearning for a moment alone. I was the one wondering when I’d get a good night’s rest again. I was the one wanting to put on a nice outfit and not have it covered in food stains and snot. I was the one covered up in moments and lacking vision or the hindsight to see how these moments could come together.
Just a few days ago I was sitting at the kitchen table with my two-year-old son. His older sisters have just begun their school year, and I’ve been looking forward to the days that I’m going to have alone with my son, my baby, who has had the least amount of quality time with mommy of all my children. We were alone at the table and I was kind of focused in on his round cheeks when it hit me. I am about to begin my final days as a full-time stay-at-home-mom. Over the last seven years my husband and I added three little people to our family and every day I was swept up in their now needs. It was hard for me to lift my head up higher than their faces to see the changes on the horizon, to see that the future was not “now”, but it came sooner than I anticipated. When I was home with all three of them, or even just two of them (when my oldest started kindergarten last year), it was easy for me to see all these moments as an endless stream of my reality. Like this was going to be my life forever, which is silly, because we all know that children grow up.
So NOW, when I look at my son, I see a boy who just yesterday was an infant, and tomorrow will be a kindergartner. Every time he kisses my arm or my cheek, every time he tells me he loves me and demands a response, every time he asks me to carry him or runs to me in tears with a boo-boo, I wonder if it will be the last of these moments of childhood urgency. Because moments have passed with my other two. I can no longer carry my six-year-old. My helpful five-year-old won’t be home in the afternoons to assist in putting her brother down for a nap. There’s less and less need for mommy’s help right NOW, and more that they can do without me.
Two nights ago, my five-year-old daughter was exaggerating about her speed and claiming that she could outrun me. I told her, “Yeah right, I’m way faster than you!” Then I thought for a moment and said, “But, there will be a day when you’ll be faster and stronger than me, honey. Then you really will beat me.”
Sometimes I think that I, and moms in general, could benefit from learning how to procrastinate, just enough to help us put off the trivial tasks that seem like they need to be done right NOW, to savor more of these moments. Later, our laundry will still be sitting in a pile on the floor, but our children will be running ahead, eventually too fast for us to catch them. Let’s lace up our shoes, take a swig of caffeine, and chase these moments when we can.