“Mommy? Mommy?” my daughter calls from the top of the stairs.
The dishes are washed and the last bits of lunch are scraped off the floor. I read a handful of stories, made sure Anna used the bathroom, and changed Henry’s third dirty diaper of the day. Both kiddos are now in their separate rooms supposedly settling down for nap. The plush brown recliner welcomes me for a brief respite as I pull out my laptop in order to work on my writing.
“Mommy!” Anna repeats. This time she yells so I will be sure to hear her.
I sigh as I put down the computer and walk over to the steps. I have a feeling my alone time this afternoon will be cut short as I listen to Anna’s latest reasoning for not taking a nap. I try hard to make simultaneous naps happen so I can get some time to myself during the day. Usually this goes off without a hitch; however, Anna is getting older and a mid-day nap isn’t as necessary as it was a few months ago.
I flashback to her early baby days, when it was just the two of us in the daytime. The only certain thing in our schedule was making sure she ate every three hours. Anna and I spent countless hours on the floor, her on the play mat and me on my belly next to her.
She would easily doze off and I would fold laundry or take a nap with her. So often, though, we found ourselves in my favorite chair – her small body clothed in a sleeper, a book open on my lap, both of us warm under a red blanket. I read while she slept feeling slightly guilty I wasn’t doing some type of chore but knowing that snuggling with her was more important.
Where has that lady gone, the one so willing to just be with her child? A woman who counted her blessings with each breath her daughter took? She was so content to let other things wait in order to watch her baby discover the world.
That carefree person I used to be has gradually disappeared over the years. Going from one child to two is no joke; the messes are bigger, the squabbles intense, and there is always some type of meal or snack to be made. I'm allowing household responsibilities to override my willingness to have fun and just be with my children.
I should be on the floor more often pushing Henry on his giant ride-on bulldozer. I ought to set aside time to delve into Anna’s imaginary world and pretend with her. Slathering on the sunscreen and heading to the pool should be a priority. Instead I find myself just barely holding on until my husband gets home. I long for adult conversation and someone to talk to who is taller than three feet.
And this respite called naptime? It is gold.
What I need to do every now and then is take a step back. My household chores are important but perhaps I’m putting more pressure on myself than necessary. I can allow those dishes to wait, push myself to break out of my routine and expectations for the day and just see what happens. Being on a schedule is good for my family but I’m letting it consume my life by dictating what comes next just because it’s what I am used to.
Perhaps breaking free of the structure will give me more snuggle time with Anna. Or maybe I will catch Henry showing off his brilliant and appropriate use of the phrase “oh no!” Maybe I will throw caution to the wind and take the two of them to the pool by myself even if it means wrestling a wiggly toddler into his car seat to get there.
Anna is now standing at the top of the steps waiting for me. “Mommy, can I come downstairs?”
I ponder her question for a minute. I know she's tired, she had a busy weekend and got to bed late last night. I look at her with a new appreciation – here is a little lady who is almost four. She's gaining a sense of independence and not quite as receptive to hugs and snuggles as she was a year ago. Maybe…maybe today I can shut off my computer and snuggle with her in our favorite chair.
“Sure, Anna. Come on down,” I tell her.
She looks at me with wide eyes; I hardly ever relent to her pleas to get out of nap. She gives me a hesitant smile and begins to tip-toe down our steep stairs. I scoop her up when she gets within reach and carry her into the living room. I pull our current favorite blanket, the fleece one with the colorful owls, over our bodies and open a book. Anna relaxes in my arms, her head tucked under my chin and her growing limbs splayed in my lap.
She reaches to turn the pages in my book and I slowly wrap my hand around hers and bring it back to her lap. Her breathing slows and becomes steady, a sure sign she has fallen asleep. I pause and look up from the pages of my book to marvel at how long her legs are. Wasn’t it just yesterday her whole body could fit in my one arm? I inhale the scent of her blonde hair and remember a time when that sweet little head was bald. In this moment, I appreciate what a gift I've been given in making myself take a break from the routine.