Last week I felt like I was constantly rushing. Rushing downstairs when I woke up to make the coffee and get myself ready. Rushing to rouse the girls and help them get dressed and brush their hair. Rushing out the door and heading to daycare drop-off – making sure I pulled into the parking lot precisely at 7:15. I knew I had a one minute buffer but if I arrived at 7:17 I would pull out of the neighborhood later than I should and I would get stuck behind the bus – which would make me panic throughout the rest of my drive about being late to work. After work, I rushed to get a quick workout in and then rushed to pick up the girls. I headed home to tidy the house a bit and make dinner and before I knew it the whole process started again. It wasn’t very pretty.
Thankfully, there were moments when my children reminded me I needed to slow down.
“Mama!” she called from upstairs.
I was unloading the dishwasher so I could load it again with the dirty dishes that were overflowing in the sink and I hadn’t yet started prepping dinner.
“Come down, babe!” I yelled up the steps. If she came down, I could talk to her while I got some work done.
She didn’t come down.
“Sweetie, come down!” I yelled again.
She still didn’t emerge.
Annoyed at being disrupted from my list of chores I wanted to check off my list, I went upstairs and saw her sitting on her blanket, leaning her head against a pillow in her “fort” (which is really her closet). She looked up at me and let out a muffled sigh.
I took a deep breath and ducked down beneath her hanging dresses and sat next to her. She leaned into me.
“What’s up, kiddo?” I asked.
“Sister doesn’t want to play with me.” she replied.
I put my arm around her little shoulders. “Sometimes sister wants to do other things. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you, it just means she wants to do her own thing right now.”
“I’m sad,” she said.
“I’m sorry you’re sad.” I sat with her for a couple of minutes and then kissed her on the head and started to get up to head back downstairs.To where my work was.
She put her hand on my shoulder. “Stay with me.” she insisted.
I looked at her small shoulders hunched over and the downturned corners of her mouth and I took a deep breath and sat back down. To where my work really was. We sat next to each other in silence. I tried not to count in my head how many minutes we were sitting, and how many dishes I could put away in that same timeframe. I reminded myself that I enjoyed sitting next to my child.and feeling her warmth and her weight pressed against me. I reminded myself that sometimes the dishes really can wait. I leaned my head against hers and rubbed her back.
After a few minutes of silence, she said, “Thanks for helping me. I feel better now,” and she popped up and walked out of the “fort” ready to head back downstairs.
The anxiety I had felt about taking the time to head upstairs had been totally unfounded. In reality, it had taken only five to seven minutes of total time, starting from when I yelled up the steps from the kitchen. Five to seven minutes to help my daughter to feel loved and secure and able to regroup. Five to seven minutes are so important when you think about it that way.
The pile of overflowing dishes will get done, eventually. They won’t sit there forever. My kids won’t need me for that long.