Monday, November 19, 2012

Thoughtful Parenting

The hard thing about having three kids, I've found, is I have no time. Like right now, as I'm writing this blog, I'm not doing about five essential things I should be to keep this house and family running smoothly. A dozen dishes will go unwashed, a load of laundry unlaundered, a flu shot forgotten, a playdate un-arranged. But that shit doesn't matter to me. Not really.

What does matter, what I do feel the loss of, is time to be thoughtful about my parenting. I mean, I am mindful about it, just at about 10pm, after all the kids are asleep and the emails have been replied to and the house is restored to a livable state. In the moment though, there's just no time. There are three mouths demanding to be heard, three stomachs demanding to be filled, three sets of eyes crying about a million problems. Solving all those problems is a Sisyphean task -- as soon as I take care of all three of their pressing needs, another one pops up again. Help with the homework, find the favorite nightgown, feed the baby and damn, you forgot to take your allergy medication and no, I don't know where it is, and while I'm looking for it, the baby yakked all over her sister's favorite nightgown. It is like this, basically, every waking second that I have the kids in my charge. I feel like I'm just putting out fires all the time and when you're always putting out fires, there's no time to do other, really essential work. Like teach your kid anything.

I'll give you the perfect example. A week or two ago, I heard a cafe near our house was collecting stuff for Sandy relief. One of the things they needed were newborn clothes. I posted about it to my building listserv and collected a bunch of clothes and formula and diapers within the same day. Now all I needed to do was bring it over to the cafe. A day passed, consumed with pick ups here and dropoff there and retracing steps looking for the beloved cat toy this one lost and searching through the lost and found for the other one's winter jacket and oh shit, I almost forgot the baby has a checkup. The next day passed in just the same way. I kept looking at the bag of Sandy Relief stuff and flagellating myself. This is important, I thought, I need to make this a priority. And I did. The next day, after school, I brought the bag to pick up and dragged the kids over to the cafe and dropped it off. Except that I wanted to be able to have a conversation with them about it, about being a member of a community and how everyone needs help sometimes and its important to do that. But the kids hadn't talked me me all day and were fighting about who would get to tell me about the fire drill first and there just wasn't time. So all I managed to say about it was, "Mommy needs to run in here to drop these clothes off for a family who can't stay in their house because of the hurricane." and honestly, I'm fairly certain the kids stopped listening after "Mommy needs --"

These are the fails which make me feel like a lousy mother. But then I think that thoughtful parenting isn't a pass/ fail sort of thing. Its something you work at every day, and hopefully the working at it is as much as a life lesson as the life lessons I'm not imparting on purpose.