I call it “distracted mothering” and I’m really good at it. Too good.
It might be a text, or an e-mail, another child, or a floor that needs sweeping. It might be laundry or lunches or washing my hands. It could be a conversation I’m trying to have with a friend or a table covered in syrup. The circumstances change but the outcome is the same. I am distracted from mothering. I suppose in some ways, these things are a part of being a mother. But in most ways, they are drawing me away from the very thing that makes me a mom: my kids.
It’s summer now and all the kids are home. Messes are a plenty and spirits are high. The very sort of thing that causes me to go into “crazy mom mode,” the mode where I yell and nitpick and become Captain Party Pooper.
I’m too smart to think this is an acceptable way to spend summer vacation. Nobody (including me) has any fun when all I do is nag about wet feet, spilled Cheez-Its, and basic hygiene. This, I know, is part of the whole parenting deal. I get that. But the wiser side of me knows that these days are far too few and will be gone too soon, as everyone is so quick to tell me.
So I am going to have to rewire my brain this summer. Rewire it for craziness. Rewire it for crunchy Cheez-It crumbs ground into the living room rug. All. Day. Long. Rewire it for science experiments, homemade play dough, and cheerfully schlepping all five kids (and their soggy beach towels) to the pool in a van that’s a thousand degrees.
I will try to listen with my eyes, when my kids are telling me about the latest Magic Tree House book they are reading, the rock that they found, or the bird on the fence.
These moments seem so ordinary, so dime-a-dozen, that it doesn’t come naturally to me to pause and remember. But the wiser side of me knows I need to store up these memories for the grey days when I’m older than I want to be and my house is way too quiet.
They are my children–and they won’t be children forever. And they call me mom, not the janitor or the chef. The mess certainly doesn’t bother them, and they could live pretty well on pretzels, so I’m not going to worry so much about what they will eat, or what they will wear. Because isn’t life more than food or clothes?
I know Jesus was talking about much more than that when He said those famous words in Matthew chapter 6. He wasn’t speaking to mothers about their children. But He was speaking to worriers; to those who labor and spin and miss the point of it all. I can absolutely relate to that. Days are replete with so many tasks, so many necessities, that it’s hard to see the lawn for the toys.
So I am going to set down my phone, hang up the dishtowel and hide the broom (for an hour at least). I am going to smile, and cheer, and watch them play baseball in the backyard. Because before I know it, summer will be over and my house won’t be quite so messy or quite so full. And I’d choose full over empty any day.