Today I found myself speed-walking to the car, my six-year-old son trailing behind me, saying to him over and over again, “Come on, come on, come on. We’re late.” I obeyed all speed limits, did not run any red lights, but by the time we got to my son’s school, he was a mess. He isn’t used to seeing me late for things, and he found my overall demeanor to be strange and upsetting. He didn’t want to get out of the car, and while sobbing, he asked me if I was okay. Not a proud parenting moment.
Prior to my daughter turning five, I had finally adjusted to being a parent to one child, and I thought we weren’t doing too badly; we had a routine, she could dress, feed, and play by herself. Then, a few months shy of her fifth birthday, my son was born. The first four months were blissfully happy—he was an easy baby, always laughing and he even started sleeping through the night by the time he was three months old. . . But then I had to go back to work. As it is for most mothers, to say it was a difficult adjustment would have been an understatement—it physically pained me to be away from him. It was made even worse by the fact that he would fall asleep for the night at 7:00—giving me less than an hour with him each day. As you can imagine, I quickly became a walking, sometimes crying, disaster. But, like anything in life, I adjusted.
When he was nearing the age of two, I was promoted. I suddenly had to start traveling for work, which increased my level of stress. Each evening, I found myself sprinting, in heels, to the car in order to not be late picking up the kids—especially my daughter whose after school program ended at 6:00—saying to myself like a mantra, “Please don’t let her be the last one, please don’t let her be the last one.” By the time I arrived at my son’s daycare (his was closer to my office), I was a disheveled mess—hair sticking to the sweat on my forehead, my shirt or blazer completely wrinkled, and more often-than-not, a run in my stockings. I would arrive in his room, spot him playing, and say “Hey, honey. Ok, let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go,” as I opened my arms and repeatedly gestured for him to run to me so that we could still make it to his sister’s school before every other child had been picked up. Instead of him running to me with sheer happiness, as I thought he would, he would hug the legs of the daycare provider and start to cry. I would have to pry his fingers from around the woman’s body, and physically carry him out of the school crying. By this time, I would have been deeply upset that my son didn’t want me and my daughter would be beside herself waiting for me to get her.
Whether I made it to the school on time or not isn’t really the point—sometimes I made it, sometimes I didn’t. No matter what happened, it didn’t make things better—my evenings usually went downhill from there. I was always thinking, and usually stressing, about the next thing I had to do: the laundry to be washed, folded, and put away; the dinner that needed to be cooked; kids that needed to be fed, bathed, and put to bed—and didn’t want to; the house that needed cleaning. Just as my outside was in complete shambles, my mind was in an even worse state. Then, one day I arrived at the daycare—and rather than the usual frantic gestures—I walked over to my son, squatted down so I could look directly at him, and I smiled. And he smiled back. It was a revelation: the crying at pick-up wasn’t because he didn’t want me, he just didn’t want the stressed out crazy me. From then on, I wouldn’t run to the car, I wouldn’t stress about all the things I had to do, I would pick up my children with a smile on my face, and bring them home where they could spend time with a mom who loved them, and wanted to be with them. I stopped saying “Let’s go.”
My advice is for both of my children. Don’t rush through life always worrying about the next thing, and never treat it like it is a list of have to’s, but instead enjoy each moment, especially those you are fortunate enough to share with someone you love.