So if you’ve been following me for awhile now, I have no doubt you’ve figured out that I’m not exactly a, “sit-still,” kind of girl. I’m something more akin to multi-tasking on steroids, so much so, that I sometimes dart around a room initiating mini-projects, and lose track of the reason I went into that room in the first place! I’m going to blame it on five years ago, and having putting our old house up for sale.
You see, my husband and I decided, at that time, that we wanted to move closer to work. When we first listed, we had only our son (a baby at the time) but a year and a half later, I was eight months pregnant with our daughter and the house finally sold! I don’t know if you’ve ever sold a house, but let me tell you, it’s not fun. Trying to sell a house is something like preparing for company–only worse, because it’s company you don’t know. All of a sudden, the dishes, dog hair and toothpaste-stained sinks that were acceptable for your family two seconds ago, are now a disgrace for the absolute strangers that will be walking throughout your house, to judge you. Before we’d leave the house, whether for lunch, church, or work, we needed to make sure it was spotless, just in case a potential buyer wanted an impromptu walk-through.
So you can see why, in that eighteen month stretch, I became a little obsessed. (Did I mention I was pregnant? Ever hear of “nesting?” Look it up. It sucks.) In any case, I became an organizational nut-job, and it has taken me most of this five year period to get over it. Now, I can’t say my house is always neat–it’s not, but I still completely stress about things being out of order before I leave. I hate the blankets not folded and the dishes not stacked. I can’t stand water cups left out or toys not in decent order (aka: drawers where I cannot see them). The thing is … my family is not this way.
My children, bless them, are children in the most childish way. They couldn’t care less if things aren’t picked up. Now, they are mommy-pleasers, and do pick up when I ask them to, but of their own volition? Never. My husband, God grace him for trying, is somewhat more akin to the actor Chris Helmsworth’s viewpoint, who was once quoted as having said, “I have sporadic OCD cleaning moments around the house. But then I get lazy and I’m cured. It’s a very inconsistent personality trait.” My husband too helps out a great deal in these random fits of his, but then, just like someone switched off a vacuum cleaner … he’s over it. And that’s the problem. Even when I’m exhausted, I can’t let it lie, and when I do, I’m a complete nightmare to be around (I know because I’ve heard myself and I don’t want to be around me either)!
The other night was one of these nights. I hadn’t exercised yet, I needed to blog, I didn’t take the dog out, the laundry was needing attention, my dishes were doing a fantastic rendition of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and I was starting to freak out, to say the least. But then … a tiny voice from my sweet girl said, “Mama, snuggle time!” Here’s where I have to rewind. About a month ago, I started something with my daughter called, “Stop and Snuggle.” I realized that I was who I was and in the midst of my being me, I sometimes neglected those little moments that my kids needed me the most. In my imperfect struggle toward perfection, I didn’t always pause to hug and cradle them, ask them how they were feeling or just sit long enough to give them a chance to share. And I know how bad this makes me sound, but why on earth would you care to read anything from someone who walls you from the truth? I can’t do that–even if it would make me sound like a better person. I think you deserve real.
So in this mandate of “Stop and Snuggle” time, my daughter has the right to use this phrase whenever she feels like it. She will literally say the words, and wait patiently for me to drop whatever I’m doing and come to her. And I do. No matter what it is, or how important I’ve made it out to be, I hit the pause button on life and go to live it with her for, usually, the greatest moment in my day. Simone de Beauvoir once said, “It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for living,” and I think these times are proof of that for me.
Although I come to her immediately, my character kicks in after about two minutes, and I never sit much longer than that. But yesterday was different. My daughter had been sitting on the sofa, wrapped in her favorite blanket; I was across the kitchen averting the potential battle between my multiple email addresses and whose inbox could fill the fastest. When, as I said before, her tiny clear voice called for a, “Stop and Snuggle.” Obediently, I flipped the lid down on my laptop, crossed the room and scooped her up for a quick squeeze. But when I got there, instead of hugging back, she turned, her big blue eyes reflecting in my own, and said, “And this time Mommy … stay.”
Stay. Such a small word really, but it felt so big. It was a moment of truth if I ever recognized one–so I stayed. And that made all the difference. Not my email count, not my chores, not my accomplishments–the fact that for once, I stayed. Samuel Smiles once said, “Life will always be, to a large extent, what we ourselves make of it.” And I think that sometimes I need to focus less on making a living and more on making a life. Are you with me?