WHAT THE HECK IS UP WITH “SHOULD”?
Should is my least favorite word. I know lots of unsavory words, but should beats any four-letter-word I’ve ever heard. I’ve even tried to replace it with phrases like, “need to” or worse, “supposed to.” Blech. Awful.
This is the scenario. My sweet six-year-old, Elliot. He is all about logic, order, math, making sense. And jokes about poop. Never forget the jokes about poop. His love language is quality time. LOTS OF QUALITY TIME. More like quantity time. He just wants to be with me. With my full attention, doing whatever he wants. All day. No problem, right?
please be sensing my sarcasm
So imagine this: Elliot asks to go play basketball. I say, I need to finish up a project I’m working on. I’ll be out in 15 minutes. He goes. I hear dribbling on the driveway and thunks against a backboard. Sweet music to this non-athletic mama’s ears. 3.5 minutes later he pops his head in from the garage, “Mooooooooooommmmmmm.... when are you cooooooming to plaaaaaaaaay with me.”
Because, didn’t I say 15 minutes? That kid is a math and numbers WIZARD… I know he knows that it has been exactly 3.5 minutes. I need to send two more emails. I remind him of our agreement. He pouts and now bounces his ball, with great lament, back outside.
But we had an agreement, right? And 15 minutes isn’t too much to ask, right? In rolls a gigantic suitcase full of parent guilt. Because I should love playing basketball with my son. And I should want to spend quality time with him. Should I really be working on my own projects when he just really needs to play basketball with me? These sentences start playing in my head: Cherish every moment. You’ll never regret more time spent with your children. Those [emails, clean floors, phone calls, whatever] won’t matter in 10 years. Every cliche about parenting and every blog I’ve ever read about how justabsolutelyprecious childhood is enters the already crowded foyer of my mind.
All of my parenting guilt is focused on not missing out on those super precious moments of motherhood. It’s fear of missing out. But in the very same breath, I have interests. Projects. Hobbies. I like to write. I like to draw. I have friends and people that I like to stay connected with. I have a life, too. While I love my sons (like crazy), they are not my whole world.
You see, friends, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I want them to grow up. I want to launch these wild beasts into the world and see them grow and thrive, and (excuse me) kick ass. I want to be present. I want to be the best for them right now, but for me that means keeping myself afloat. It means keeping the stuff inside of me growing. My faith, my talents, my interests-- because as much as I love to play basketball with Elliot-- it doesn’t fill my cup.
AND GUESS WHAT? I’m okay with that. I play basketball and endless board games because I know it fills his cup. And I want to practice giving myself permission to do the things that fill my own. To honor my sweet boy and give him the time he needs, but to also be protective of the time I need.
I’m figuring out the balance, and working on leaving the "shoulds" behind.