My house is quiet right now. The only sounds are the drone of the air conditioner and the click of these computer keys and the bang of the washing machine (constant around here), occasionally noise from the construction site down the street. My baby is sleeping (cue the angels’ chorus). And my 3 big girls are at school. It’s quiet.
I don’t remember how to do this.
It’s only been 8 ½ years since Aida and Sophie were 6-month-olds who took actual naps - albeit not always at the same time - but the quiet during Emmie’s naptime this week is so foreign to me, so separate from what life has been for the past several years. No singing Lucy, no big girls creating or inventing or building, no fighting sisters, no - for a moment - squealing baby. Just me and my thoughts, scrambled and tangled inside this sleep-deprived head of mine.
Oh sure, there are lots of things calling out to be done in this quiet. In fact, I made a list of them on Monday and it is kind of hilariously, ridiculously long, because there is no way I could ever complete it, even if I didn’t have a baby who sleeps for a while and then bounces awake, legs pumping and a smile plastered on her beautiful goofy face.
But I made a second list on Monday, and I laughed when I came back to it later and read the title I had hastily assigned to this page: “Things I Want to do for Me - to grow as a person.” Apparently I had felt the need to include the word person, creating a phrase that has always been a no-no for its needless repetition - one grows, and the word person is implied since we don’t grow as dolphins or airplanes or roses. Not only this, but in my moment of scribbling I had felt the need to underline the word person. It’s as if, with that slash of my pencil, I was reminding myself - yes, you are a mother, and yes, you are a wife, and those are so, so important, so defining, and yes, you are a daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, but Amanda, you are also you - a person.
I read an article earlier (as a rule I try to avoid books and articles on parenting because, Hello! They NEVER make me feel better and almost always make me feel worse, but it gets difficult to resist clicking on them now and then in this lovely age of social media) and the last line caught me: “One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.” It caught me because, just recently, I asked myself an interesting question: If someone asked them, would my girls know what Mommy likes to do?
How do I spend my time? Based on observation, their answers would most likely be “Read to us” (Yes!) or “Put things away” (No!). I realized that I just might be on the brink of frittering away a large chunk of my life on straightening up.
So today, in this quiet I don’t know what to do with, I am taking a stab at remembering who I am and what I like to do. Not just remembering, but relearning. A lot has happened since Aida and Sophie were tiny, chubby snugglers that napped every now and then. I’m telling the mom-guilt voice to tone it down a bit and to let me come up for air. I’m aching to get my hands in the dirt and pull some weeds, real and figurative. I’m reminding myself to pray.
And one of the things on my person list is write. I think I know that I need to find my own voice again, and that maybe I’ll hear it a little better if I can read my own words. Many of them will be about my children because, well, I really dig this mothering gig. But the words will be mine, for me, and if you enjoy them as well, that’s great. Maybe they’ll help you grow as a person, too.