We left the house this morning for the Y. I had Happy’s bag stuffed with snacks, diapers, wipes, water, and the all important milk. We can’t go anywhere these days without copious amounts of milk. We walked into the garage and Happy saw his Flintstone car. You know the car I am talking about- it’s orange and yellow and has a door that opens for the kid to climb in and no pedals, just open floor space for the kid to move it along with his feet. He inherited the Flintsone car last week from friends whose three kids have enjoyed it. It is covered in, as BF puts in, graffiti. It has been well-loved for over six years. Happy was thrilled to inherit it and has been obsessed with it for a week. So, instead of dutifully going to his car door and our opening the door together as we do when I say to him, “We’re headed to the car, Happy,” he ran to the Flintstone car. He was headed to a car alright, his car.
And though I only had a finite amount of time to get my workout in before we had to be home for speech therapy, I said nothing. I let him play in that car as long as he wanted. And when our next door neighbor opened her back door to call out for her dog (who was in our garage with us), Happy took off for Honey’s house (Honey is our neighbor. She is just as sweet as said name implies).
“Come on in,” Honey called. “The boys are eating breakfast.” Honey’s grandsons had spent the night. Happy loves those boys. He barged in, found a seat at the table and waited for his warm muffin. Somewhere in my house, my to do list with ‘workout’ on it was taunting me, I am sure. Instead of worrying about it, I sat down, too.
Then, all of the boys tumbled out Honey’s back door and to our paved, long, even driveway– perfect for scooters, the Flintstone car, and Big Wheels (an aside: when I was a little girl, I thought Proud Mary by CCR was about Big Wheels. I had a Big Wheel, and I loved that song. My dad would turn on the wood-paneled station wagon in the driveway and allow me to play the CCR eight track on it. I would play in the yard until the bars of Proud Mary started. Then I would run to my big wheel, hop on, and tear around the driveway with my theme song jamming in the background. I am reminded of this as the boys careen around the driveway). I don’t look at a watch. I don’t think about the list. I don’t worry about the fact that my window to use childwatch at the gym is dimishing as the boys ride. I push the Flintsone car, the scooter, the Big Wheel. I throw balls, get the dogs to move, intervene over toy tension. And then it’s time for speech. Then lunch. Then nap. Then the playground and the day goes by and I never scratch workout off the list.
And this small thing, this never having scratched workout or 10 other things off the list is the biggest revelation to me as a mother.
A few weeks ago, Happy and I visited a friend who I haven’t seen much since becoming a parent. She’s the busy mother of three boys. They live out of town on a farm with horses. The horses keep her on that farm all the time, busy, working, and when she’s not working the horses, she’s doing animal- equine or dog- therapy somewhere. But we found these thirty minutes for us to stop by and while Happy navigated the horses and the barn cat, she asked what had been the greatest surprise to me in parenting. I hadn’t thought about that question before. But the answer came to me quickly.
The greatest surprise was me– that I, the list girl that I am, have no problem, in any moment that Happy is awake and with me, not minding the list. That I can feel fully satisfied at the end of the day not accomplishing everything I thought I needed to accomplish in that day because what most satisfies me is not ‘work’. To be fair, my work is important to me- it matters to me to use what skill and passion I have in the efforts and issues that I have embraced to try and make a difference- but in motherhood, I have taken the long view. The list doesn’t have to be completed each day (with bonus points for starting the next day’s list early as I did for years and years). What most matters to me right now is showing up and being present. To be where I am in that moment. That if the time is Happy’s time, that he gets it. That if the time is the work time that I have alloted, that I make the most of it. I have found peace with the fact that it all just cannot be accomplished in a day and that if I am forcing it to be accomplished, then I am doing it at the detriment of this baby boy with whose care and wellbeing I have had the honor of being entrusted.
I have always had a global sense of urgency and the urgency has always shown up on that list. I dramatically wrote in my journal in college that it was not enough for me to just give my best to things because I might somehow justify less than enough. I couldn’t give my best. I had to give enough to make the difference. Always. For years, I was unable to have unproductive time. If I was in front of the television, I was ironing, organizing recipes or files, making notes, wrapping gifts. I couldn’t just work out, I had to train for something. I was so scared of wasting a minute and the way I knew the time wasn’t wasted was if it led to something being crossed off the list. If it was enough effort to get something crossed off the list. But in being Happy’s mother, I have found grace and peace and stillness. I can still make work with the best of them, but I do it only when work is scheduled. Now, I can walk away. Nothing is so urgent anymore. Nothing, that is, but pushing that little Flintstone’s car down the driveway one more time.