The other day, my three-year-old, Spencer, asked if we could get out the Playdoh. In my mind, I was screaming, “NO! It will end up all over the kitchen, you always mix the colors, you’ll need too much help with the Fun Factory, and I don’t like how it smells.”
As I was about to verbalize these feelings, however, I thought a little deeper. We had a free morning while my older children were at school, Spencer had only experienced Playdoh twice in his life, and we needed some one-on-one time. Out came the bucket of Playdoh and supplies (which I had deliberately hidden in the darkest corner of the garage).
We rolled it flat, pressed out shapes of cats and ice cream cones, made snakes and spaghetti with the Fun Factory, built a blue snowman, and yes, made quite a mess of the kitchen.
Although my hesitations with the Playdoh were valid, watching the expressions on Spencer’s face helped me to realize something important. It’s absolutely fine if I don’t like Playdoh. The important thing is that I love Spencer.
I’ve always assumed that “other moms” love the sometimes-mundane intricacies of motherhood–chasing toddlers across the swing-y bridge at the park, listening to every single detail about the latest episode of Phineas and Ferb, spending three hours looking through racks of colorful t-shirts while pre-teens deliberate what will look best to their school friends–but as I watched Spencer’s sheer delight at smashing the reds, yellows, and blues into every shade of the spectrum, I came to understand that naturally loving the details is irrelevant. It’s the feelings about our children that matter. They are our top priorities, and we do whatever is necessary to treat them as such.
Maybe everyone else already knows this, but this one idea has drastically reduced my guilt. Whenever I did something for my children out of obligation, I worried that I wasn’t an “authentic” mother. Shouldn’t I love making blanket forts and painting butcher paper with watercolors? Now I know that my authenticity comes in the form of true love.
My daughters, Alia and Grace, have each started a blog, and they need help uploading photos, proof-reading, and publishing their posts. Sometimes I don’t feel like working on another blog, but that’s okay. I don’t do it because I always enjoy it. I do it because I love my girls.
My son Ethan loves Playmobil toys, and the other day, he brought me the little catalog and described (with great enthusiasm) which sets he wants to buy, why he likes them, and how he intends to play with them. In the back of my mind, I thought, “Do I really need to know all of this?” but then I shook myself a bit and remembered that my interest in his Playmobil catalog needs to reflect my interest in him. We sat together for 15 minutes, copying down the stock numbers, checking the prices online, and scheduling a shopping trip when we could go buy a set with the money he’d saved.
My son Spencer has an affinity for shelled nuts–particularly peanuts and pistachios. The problem is that he can’t shell them himself, so I spend lots of time bent over the kitchen counter, releasing his snacks from captivity. Whenever he says, “Mommy, can I have stash-ee-os?” I cringe a little because I know this means several minutes for me, but then I try to turn it into a relationship-building experience for the two of us. He likes to sort the shells from the nuts, and he likes to sit right next to me, our arms touching, our cheeks occasionally pressed together. That, right there, is comfort.
Someday, I will be sitting at my desk, typing away on my laptop, and the house will be quiet. I won’t hear music playing in my boys’ room. No one will need my help after they use the restroom. The sounds of crashing toy trucks and Diego cartoons will have faded. My daughters won’t be making banana muffins in the kitchen, and they’ll know how to run their own blogs.
I won’t be playing Playdoh or researching Playmobil sets because I don’t naturally gravitate toward those activities, but I will most definitely be looking back at the photos and videos that recorded those moments–and wishing they had lasted just a little bit longer. My family is my top priority. I do what I do because I love them, and if I never ever develop a love for Playdoh, that is entirely okay. I have developed a binding, everlasting love for the people who matter most.
QUESTION: What things do you do simply because you love your family? How do you remember the “why” when you’d rather not do the “what”?
CHALLENGE: The next time your child asks you to do something that doesn’t interest you, carefully consider your priorities and do what you can to create a fun, memorable experience.