I was the first one to wake up this morning. I hit the kettle and looked around the quiet house. I started to think about how motherhood comes with a certain awareness, like a light shadow capable to cast on all the decisions you have made in the day. Most evenings after work, I’m concentrating so hard on what comedian Maz Jobrani alludes to—the hours before bedtime. Dinner, homework, bathing–when that all needs to start to get them to the finish line. I try to aim for a balance in the day; I think so many of us do. Sometimes I have enough energy to recognize and try to remedy when being a sous chef overshadows my time with the kids. In a small quiet moment, I ask myself, did I even play with them tonight? Did I look at them in their eyes, or was it just over their heads as I knelt down to pick up the toys, or when I set down their dinner, or when I unpacked their lunch boxes to get them washed and packed up again.
I go to bed hoping they didn’t notice. When I play back the day in my head, I try really hard to reel in some of the good I did: making them fresh food, being home on time, hugging them hard when I got home, packing their favorite treats for lunch, getting their art out of their binders and into our memory trunk. I hope they would see that, remember that. Not the times I wasn’t sitting with them or playing on the floor.
A series of cool moments happened yesterday as the day elongated to hold up a morning birthday party. Layla had a donut morning with her dad while I took Zade to his friend’s birthday party. Without really planning it, it became a day with Zade alone for me. I got to watch Zade’s excitement unfold as he fed ducks and played dinosaurs with his friends.
A few times, I observed his friends playing quietly until Zade came around and stirred up excitement, making up silly words and taking his friends from one corner of the party to another: he reminded me of both Kal and me, my desire to make conversation and encourage a party and Kal’s desire to lead the and be subtly mischievous. After the party, Zade and I picked out a mirror for their bathroom and a couple of toys. And then we had a very impromptu lunch with a great friend and hostess who opened her house to us and our crazy.
When we got home, I got to the task of cooking because I thought we’d have company. When they cancelled, I still made two times as much food so I could avoid cooking today. Three and a half hours later, I practically limped out of the kitchen. Sure, I had one task done that would free up some time later, but then I felt disconnected from Layla, someone I hadn’t really seen all day. It’s easy to see the bigger picture and recognize that a small day is okay; however, when you have that light shadow creep up that makes you aware of what’s been left out of the balance, you can’t ignore it easily.
So I balled up loads of laundry I had intended to fold, hurled them off of Zade’s bed, and threw them onto his train table. I told the kids they could stay up; Layla was so pleased. She made play stations for us involving pencil erasers and puzzles. We put on Kung Fu Panda and laughed, Kal and I looking at each other during the moments only adults can appreciate.
We rolled and got comfortable under soft throws. After 20 minutes, I looked at Layla: she was fast asleep, content and warm under her pink Valentine’s Day blanket that her grandmother bought her.
And balance was restored. A few minutes after that, with Zade in my arms, I fell asleep.
There are many days where I don’t feel that equilibrium, where the orange level stick’s bubble and line we’ve relied on to hang pictures and frames would be way off if used as a lens against my idea of what I want us to remember at the end of the day. I’m thankful today for yesterday, and in the wise words of Kung Fu Panda, I’m grateful for the present, which is why it’s called a present.
It’s true that you so often can’t see it while you’re in it. About my kids, I have to have faith in my general weight towards balance. Maybe this is similar to the promise of the sun before you actually see it, when the sky lightens up from charcoal to gray, and you know she’ll come into view soon. You just have to make the effort to stare up long enough to see the gradient balance in the sky.