Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Friday, May 28, 2010

Procrastinating with Children: Staying Flexible Without Getting the Bends

I am late getting this post up today because I HAVE TEENAGERS!  My three-day time log, on which yesterday was Day 2, will ultimately show that I have spent several hours over the last two and a half days actively mothering these two humans-in-waiting.  That total includes two and three-quarter hours in the middle of the night rescuing three young people from their own bad decisions.  Only one of them was mine, but since I was out there anyway, it seemed only civilized to toss virtual life preservers to the other two.  I'd like to say I believe any other mother would have done the same, but I'm not so sure.  My kids appear to be surrounded by others whose parents are "on leave" from parenting, for one reason or another.  

My other near adult has needed many hours of help over the last couple of weeks, looking for a car he can afford; haggling with unscrupulous car dealers (playing sane cop to my behind-the-scenes crazy cop husband, as I tried to help my kid get a fair deal and a drivable car); and processing his decision to spend a few more months working to save money and preparing himself to enter the school that has accepted him.  It looks like he will end up with the car of his trimmed-back dreams, and I will end up with. . . a fairly severe sleep deficit.

But really, I wouldn't have it any other way.  These tag-end children are the ones brought to me in my second marriage by flukes and miracles, the ones I had no right to expect.  And I am proud and happy to be their mom.  I feel pretty good about who they are and who they are becoming, and about all I have learned along the way.  And I just plain (mostly) enjoy their somewhat quixotic company.  

However, my triathlon training schedule for the week is in tatters; my cleaning campaign is in retreat; my meditation routine has been curtailed; and I have the energy of overcooked linguini.  So I am going to give myself "props," as my kids would say, for continuing to keep the commitments I made 19+ and nearly 17 years ago to love and protect these nascent people; for being clear about my priorities; for being mature enough to roll with the permanence of changes; and for recognizing the need today to engage in some needed R & R for myself, with other tasks taking a back seat.  

This too shall pass, and I'll be saddened when it does.  I have passed on to my daughter, now a mother herself, the not-so-literary poem I clipped from an Ann Landers column when she was young.  Its sing-songy lines have stayed in my head all these years since, and though it's unlikely to be anthologized, the thought at its core still compels me.


My hands were busy through the day;
I didn't have much time to play
the little games you asked me to. 
I didn't have much time for you.
I'd wash your clothes, I'd sew and cook,
But when you'd bring your picture book
And ask me please to share your fun
I'd say "A little later, son."
I'd tuck you in all safe at night
And hear your prayers, turn out the light,
Then tip-toe softly to the door. . .
I wish I'd stayed a minute more
For life is short, the years rush past.
A little boy grows up so fast.
No longer is he at your side
His precious secrets to confide.
The picture books are put away,
There are no longer games to play,
No good-night kiss, no prayers to hear.
That all belongs to yesteryear.
My hands, once busy, now are still,
The days are long and hard to fill.
I wish I could go back and do
The little things you asked me to.
                            ~ Author Unknown

Though the portrait of mother and child is dated, and the language somewhat quaint, this poem can still bring tears to my eyes.  And it reminds me to be in these final moments of parenting minor children.

But I also need to remember, better than I have sometimes done, that my life, too, is flying by, and deserves my attention.  The things I neglect to do for myself, the opportunities I decline, can also leave me with regrets.  I, too, am a child of the universe, as are my children, with my own birthrights and promise.  And no one left to see to them but me.  I can't fill every minute with mothering.  In the spaces in between my children's needs and crises, I must return to my first responsibility, which is to myself.  I don't want my "empty nest" days to be "long and hard to fill."  I have to miss my children when they are gone, and their childhoods, but I don't have to miss myself.  So if now is the time to enjoy living with my kids while they are still at home, it is also the time to continue growing my own life.  

As soon as I get some sleep.

No comments:

Post a Comment