Today I had to go to work. I left while most of my family was still fast asleep, and after what seemed to be a very long meeting, made it home after dinnertime, and at what should have been the time to start the boys winding down for the night. The house looked as it was bound to after leaving a 3 year old boy, a 6 year old boy, their father, and the dog on their own for the better part of 2 days. The smell of the french fries (!!!) that they had for dinner still lingered in the air.
I dropped my work bag by the door, gave everyone hellos and kisses, and then headed into the kitchen to try to unearth the sink from a mountain of dishes. I heard little feet behind me, and William made the request that just about did me in..."Mommy, please can we play tag outside?" I tried to be a little sneaky about my answer "Sure - why don't you and your brother play some tag before bedtime?" But of course, he was not deterred that easily. He didn't want to play tag, he wanted to play tag with me.
Now, I cannot begin to tell you how much I love my boys. They are my heart, my soul, my reason for being. I would gladly lay down my life for them. But play tag? Now? After working all day? Couldn't he see the dishes / laundry / tidying up / paper work that needs to be done???? I didn't have the energy to make myself a cup of tea, let alone chase a 6 year old around the back yard.
Of course, eventually his angel face, body hugs and "Please Mommys" won me over, as they usually do. We headed outside, the boys running, skipping and jumping, and me dragging, shuffling and grumbling. None the less, after a few minutes we were all laughing and having fun sloshing after each other in our rubber boots around our spring-muddied back yard. Somehow their energy was contagious.
What struck me, as we were chasing each other around like fools, was how easy it is to get caught up in doing things for our kids, instead of doing things with them. We go to work to earn money to buy them things. We wash their clothes, and we cook them healthy meals. We try to give them a clean home to live in, and drive them to lessons, groups, and activities. We even obsess over taking their pictures and documenting their days!!! Is all of that important? Sure. Is it worth spending our time and energy on? Sure. Is it the most important thing? No. What kids want, what they need more than anything else, is us. Our time, our energy, and our undivided attention.
Sometimes, I think, we try to convince ourselves that folding the laundry really is the most important thing that our children need of us at a given moment. The must have clean, neatly folded clothing to wear, right? But lets be honest with ourselves. Sometimes folding laundry is really a way of letting ourselves off the hook a little bit. Even the best of us can only play super heroes for so long. After about an hour and a half of playing Lego my brain starts to melt and drain out of my ears (have I mentioned that my boys LOVE Lego!?!?).
So here is my pledge - if I need a break, I will take a break. If the laundry needs to be folded, I will fold it. But most importantly, when the boys needs me, I will be there for them - with them. I will recognize that what they need more than anything else, really, is to know not only that I love them, but that I like them. That they are worth spending time with. That they are fun. Because really, they are. Even after a long day at work.