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Let Sleeping Children Lie

9.23.2009


It is always by a dim night light that I study my children's profiles and wonder how I could ever lose my patience with them.  And what is it about a quiet room disturbed only by deep baby breaths that forces me to think deeply on and judge my mothering sins?
Tonight Charlie asked me if I would lay by him. "I'll be in your room folding clothes, so you don't need me to lay by you." Then Jack asked, "Mama, lay by me?"
"Maybe ... when I am done folding your clothes." Because I am busy. So busy. So, so, so busy, with so many good, justifiable, meaningful, important things to do. And maybe if I can get all of those things done …
So tonight after I admired my laundry, I looked at my boys waiting patiently for me. And as I laid down, I found my mind wandering, thinking of what I had to do next. While tracing the alphabet on Jack's spine, I thought of all the pressing matters that needed my attention right then: more laundry, wiping down the kitchen, finishing up a work project, picking up Legos, talking to my husband about upcoming travel plans, thinking about the people that I had to call tonight … and the peaches—I have got to do something with those peaches!
Now it is Charlie's turn, and hopefully he will fall asleep fast, because that list is really growing. I trace on his back too, while he tells me stories about his day, and the friends he likes to play with. He then asks me, "Mommy, will you lay by me for a long time?" "Um, sure," I say hesitantly, to his smiling face. "I would love to lay by you for a long time." And then I think about what he is really saying to me--and what all of my kids say to me often throughout the day: Will you slow down, Mom?  
Will you play cars with me? Look what I colored! Will you help me practice piano? Come watch me ride my bike! Will you read me a book? Will you play a game with me? Will you help me clean my room? Can I sit by you? Can I help you water the flowers? What does this say? Can you fix this toy for me? And what they’re really saying is: "Will you slow down? Will you spend time with me? Will you look me in the eyes and validate that I am an important person in your life? Will you just be my Mom?"
I finally finish scratching backs, and slide gently out of their beds, taking special care not to wake them. After all, my to-do list has grown and I have an hour less in my day to accomplish all of those tasks that demand a check mark. Yet, as I sit at my dining room table-- list in front of me, still growing as I notice crumbs on the floor, and an empty milk carton in the trash can-- I feel covered by my daily sin of ignoring the children.
There is much a mother can learn in letting her sleeping children lie. It’s a perspective that often comes in the dark of night when the air is still and Legos cover the floor and the to-do list is left unfinished. They’re quiet flashes that cause deep reflection on decisions made, for good or bad, throughout the day and meditative moments that offer a different vantage point of mothering and motherhood, and how to be better at both. For the guilt that summons a better day tomorrow also gives permission to ignore the to-do list instead of the children.

25 comments:

Azúcar said...

This is absolutely beautiful, Mandee.

merideth said...

wow i am so where you are... why is it so hard to slow down. i am still trying to figure it all out.
this was so beautiful to read and so what is real as a mother.

p.s. i think i have commented before but maybe not... i know your brothers. love them.

Wendy Sue said...

Thank you for this...I've been feeling exactly the same way the last few days - but I never could have written about it so beautifully. Thank you.

Cathy said...

Beautifully said.

kelly said...

made me cry.

Jen (and her men) said...

me too.

Alifinale said...

and me too...thanks for the reminder.

Reynolds Family said...

Exactly how I feel!

Stephanie said...

Totally agree.

Janelle said...

Thank you, Mandee. That was perfect; just what I needed to hear.

Ashley said...

Beautiful post. We all feel this way--and lately I've really been guilty of it. But I do believe that in mothering, like everything, there is a lot of grey and a lot of fine lines to walk. The laundry DOES still need to get done, and when my house gets completely disgusting, there is no peace there. And I know that I will go crazy if I don't have a little bit of time to do my stuff every once in a while. And I think kids do need to spend time entertaining themselves. But I know I cross the line into being too busy/distracted--esp. when it involves the internet for me and the tv for them. Anyway, I love this post, I totally agree, I am going to try harder today. But I don't think you need to beat yourself up. The fact that it bothers you so much shows how great of a mom you are.

jennifer said...

beautiful post, mandee. your kids are lucky to have you as a mom.

brooke said...

This is probably your most profound and best post yet. This hit home really hard. Luke asks me to cuddle him every single night and I only do it about once a week and then it is only for 5 minutes. Then I've got to get to the computer or the dirty kitchen, or the laundry...or a million other things. And he's 6 and its a couple more years he will never want me to touch him, let alone cuddle him.

Thanks for the wake-up call. Being a mom is so hard sometimes. Especially when all that other stuff does have to get done eventually, and it may just mean staying up later and later and being grouchy the next day and the cycle continues. But I love your new to-do list and I'm copying it.

Emily said...

That was absolutely beautiful. You said everything that I am feeling at this stage in my life. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for being a good example to me. You are a great mom.

rabidrunner said...

Wow. I was about to leave a list of all of the wonderful things that post made me feel but decided I needed to do the dishes first.

Kim said...

Beautifully said and a great reminder!

Katie D. said...

Thanks for the reminder....as I'm blogging and ignoring my family.

lacey said...

you mad me cry...

and sigh...

because there always is so much to do. But what better to do than be the moms we should be?

Thanks for the reminder sweet mandee.

Brown Family said...

SO TRUE... Thanks for verbalizing what I've been feeling... Today, I will take time to be A MOMMY :) LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS POST... and I love your blog and I love how real you are and OK, I just love you. :)

Mandee said...

I have to say I was honestly afraid to hit publish- for me this was such a raw and open book into what my life is like right now, and what a horrible mother I am. So thank you for helping me to know that I am not alone in my struggle to make my kids the priority.

And Ashley, you are so right- those other responsibilities that we have are important and have to get done, and that is another post all on it's own.

Thanks friends.

Danielle said...

Okay, I have a confession. I've been stalking you. But I couldn't help but say something after a post like that! You had me in tears becuase I relate so much to every word and breaks my heart when I find I skipped taking advantage of a precious moment.

love your blog.
love, Danielle (Burdett)

Cally said...

I haven't checked blogs for a long time and decided to take a few minutes this morning to check a few. Well, thanks for making me cry! I feel like this more days than not. I have gone into my kids rooms at night to check on them before I go to bed and have cried because I have been impatient with them during the day. So easy to get caught up in the "have to dos" that I forget the "should dos before it's too late". Great reminder and beautiful writing!

Summer said...

Love, love,love, love,love this post! Thank you for the reminder!

Nishant said...

Thank you for this...I've been feeling exactly the same way the last few days - but I never could have written about it so beautifully. Thank you.
Work From Home

Lisa said...

Can I just copy and paste this into my blog so that I can remind myself too. Thanks for writing this.