Updated: Apr 12, 2018
Although I wrote this at Christmas time, it is equally apt to remember as we approach the Easter break. No more “I just have to..." for me.
Today I got a huge wake-up call and I don’t mean the one of little faces appearing by my bedside at 5am because the sun is up and they can’t wait to tell we what the elves have been up to overnight. Although I did get that wake up call also! No, my wake up call was far more confronting than that. It came when one of my children asked me to play with her and I began to reply, “Yes, I just …” and she finished my sentence for me with “have to…I know.” Imagine it said with a little roll of the eyes and resigned exasperation and you’ll get the picture.
In that split second I realized what I must sound like to my children. “I just have to finish the washing up. I just have to hang out this load of washing. I just have to get dinner ready/wrap this present/write these cards/make this phone call.” No wonder my children are exasperated. This is their holiday time, their time out from school and the time that they look forward to hanging out with their Mum. Only their mum is busy with stuff. Boring, mundane stuff! Stuff that apparently can’t wait and is given priority over them.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that my children need me every second of the day. I’m the first to acknowledge the importance of children having the opportunity to get bored and to amuse themselves. What I am realising though is how much I have been postponing my children. Postponing them until I get my jobs done. Postponing them until the house is tidy. Postponing them until I have more time. Postponing them until I’m not so tired. If I keep doing that I’ll never get to them because there is always more stuff to get done. Enough to keep me busy for a lifetime!
This was an even more significant wake-up call to me because I am so often banging on about being present with your children, staying in the moment, giving them your full attention and not allowing yourself to get distracted by the less important. I love spending time with my kids. I look forward to holiday time so that I can spend time with them, so how can I be sending them the message that all this stuff is more important than they are and that it just can’t wait? I guess we’re all human and at such a busy time of year, things sneak up on us. We get on our treadmill and momentarily confuse the urgent with the important, muddling our priorities.
So I’ve had my wake-up call in that sweet, little, innocent voice of my daughter and now it is time for me to postpone the jobs rather than my children. Christmas or no Christmas, (Easter or no Easter), chores or no chores, they are the most precious gifts I have. It is time for me to put the jobs aside and soak up these little people because in a few short years, their desire to spend time with me may have diminished. I hope not, realistically however there will be friends and school, sport and music, all competing for their time and attention. The last thing I’ll want to hear when I ask them to go on an outing with me is, “I just have to…finish this assignment/call my friend/do my hair/paint my nails.”
What happens in a few years time depends a lot on what is done now. The best chance I have that my children will want to continue to spend time with me in the future is to stop what I’m doing and spend time with them, not put them off with yet another “I just have to…”