The Lovely Long Stretches

2.12.10: The moments I've been missing

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I once went to a lecture on early childhood development given by a local educator who said something that really hit home for me. She said: “We’ve given away the lovely long stretches.”

What she meant was that parents today spend the majority of their time with their kids during the most hectic, stressful parts of the day: the morning rush before school and work; the evenings when everyone is hungry, cranky, and exhausted from their day; and the weekends, which are often spent in the car running from one errand and activity to the next. As a society, we’ve given away the lovely long stretches of time with our children to our babysitters, our schools, and our daycare centers.
While I was on maternity leave, I realized just how right she was. For the first time in a long time, I was able to take back some of the more relaxed parts of the day—late mornings spent sitting in a sunny spot on the carpet, playing Go Fish with Charlie; late afternoons lingering in the rocking chair, holding my sweet baby. Instead of rushing through the grocery store, I could meander through, letting Charlie push his own “Customer in Training” cart, and letting him help put the groceries up on the checkout conveyer belt. The day when Charlie’s big blue eyes filled with tears and he cried: “No one’s playing with me!”, I had time to sit down on the floor and do his entire space puzzle with him, high-fiving each other every time we completed a planet. I was able to meet Julia at the bus, and talk to her about her day over a snack before helping her with her homework. We had long conversations about things like how a magnet works, and the difference between clockwise and counterclockwise, and what she would do if she were president (“Every day would be Parents-Sleep-In-Day!!! And Ice Cream Day!!!” What can I say, the girl’s got my vote.).
Granted, not all of the long stretches have been so lovely. Some have been so filled with the tedium of the day-in-day-out care and feeding of kids that I would practically burst into tears at the sight of Will walking through the door at the end of the day. Let’s face it, some aspects of taking care of a family are so boring and repetitive that I sometimes feel like Sisyphus, pushing my giant rock up the hill, only to have it topple back down on top of me. I had to laugh when a friend told me that she dreads unloading her dishwasher each day, because she has to face a certain fork every time, picking it up and thinking: “I just put this fork away yesterday.”
But, in between the diaper changes and the meal prep and the loads of laundry and the spill cleanups and the potty accidents and the refereeing of fights, there have been these moments. Moments, when I least expected them, that will stay with me always. Moments that I might have otherwise missed.

Next Week: My funny valentine...