Parks, picnics and pasta sauce
With about half an hour to go before school got out at lunchtime today, I was moving over some laundry and plotting how, exactly, I was going to go grocery shopping and give the kids lunch and still make it home in time for Gwen's nap and to do all of the other things I had on my list today. We could grab lunch while we were out (Wendy's is very conveniently next to Target), but Espen had already chosen to make chicken and fries for his dinner day tonight, and there's only so much fried chicken you can eat in a day, y'know?
Then inspiration struck. Today was one of those glorious early September days that Utah does so very well, and I decided to capitalize on it and pack up a quick picnic of juice, sandwiches and a handful of cookies and run out the door. Gwen and I pulled a very bewildered and excited Espen out of his carpool, and then headed off on our picnic adventure.
The park was more or less empty at lunchtime on a Friday afternoon, so we had a nice little lunch beneath the shade before the kids ran off to spend a happy half hour or so on the playground. As I watched them bask in the glory of having the entire playground to themselves, I knew that there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to do all of the things I had planned to do today. But I knew I had to (as Espen so enthusiastically belted out in the bathroom at Target a little later) let it go, and just make that time in the park with the kids my priority for today.
I forget that sometimes. In the rush to check things off my list and get things done and organized and into shape, I forget that the whole and entire point and purpose in life is to be with the people we love. To serve others and allow ourselves to be served. To love them and to let them love us. Isn't that why we're really all here?
I got another reminder of that after we got home. Espen was in the backseat of the car, telling me that he could unbuckle Gwen from her seat "so you don't have to waste your time doing it, mom. I don't want you to have to do lots of work today." It was meant as a kindness and I so appreciate his good little heart and willingness to help, but it felt a little bit like a slap in the face. Waste my time? Is that really what I have been teaching them? That things I do to take care of them are work and chores, and that anything that takes a little while is wasting my precious time? That my time is somehow more important than them? Oh, I hope that's not what they're learning!
I was too stunned at the time to say much of anything, but what I should have said, and what I will say to Espen tonight when we snuggle up in his bed after his bedtime story is this: "Taking care of you and your sister is a gift, and if I have ever made you feel like any of the things I do in a day are more important than you, then I apologize. There is a lot of work involved in being a mom or a dad, or just a grownup in general, and sometimes there are things that just have to happen, like making our food, doing laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning up... But those things never, ever matter more than you or Gwen, and loving you and taking care of you is not a waste of my time, even if it just something small or not very fun like unbuckling a car seat or changing a diaper. If I ever make you feel like I care more about unloading the dishwasher then I do about you, please tell me, and I will be happy to remind you just how much I love you, and how much you really do matter to me."
Two more little events: yesterday afternoon I put Gwen down for her nap and then started to head downstairs to make a large batch of pasta sauce when the thought popped into my head to invite Espen to join me. I popped my head inside his bedroom door and asked if he would like to keep me company while I cooked, and his whole little face just lit up. He came downstairs and spent the next hour or so perched beside me on the kitchen counter, chatting about school and helping me with the occasional cooking task. It was so nice to and easy to just spend time together like that, and I felt like such a doofus for not thinking of it before. Which is exactly the reason why, when Gwen asked me to play Lego with her this morning when I was really planning to go upstairs and do some laundry, I said yes. And sure, I spent some time cleaning up the playroom around her while she played before I came to my senses and actually played some dang Lego with her, but I got there in the end, which help both of us remember that she is infinitely more important than even the longest to do-list.
So: yes to taking ten minutes to play Lego with Gwen before I go upstairs to do the laundry. Yes to letting Espen help me cook, even though it's messy. Yes to putting away the iPads and having a tickle fight. Yes to first things first. Yes to family first.