For the past three weeks I have been working furiously to finish a writing project I've been working on. I've forsaken sleep, walks with friends, time with my husband, phone calls to my sisters and mom, outside time and laundry (I totally did not mind forsaking laundry) but the kids now know what "going commando" means.
But the number one thing I've forsaken has been giving my children my undivided attention.
And I think it may be the best thing that's ever happened to all of us.
My laptop has been my constant companion as I burned up the keyboard getting to the 86,000 words I needed to make the work complete. But at first it was an uphill battle as I was barraged by the usual requests from my kids.
It turns out that in the context of when you're trying to get work done my kids' requests are really, really annoying. They would interrupt me to ask for juice, demand a story, insist they needed a Band-Aid (they didn't), ask me to check their homework, open a squeezie pouch or beg me to get them a snack.
Rather than screaming out "MOMMY'S WORKING!" at the top of my lungs like Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest (sans the wire hanger, of course) I went with the more benign "Get it yourself."
Them: Mommy, I need a cheese stick.
Me: Get it yourself.
Them: I'm thirsty and I'd like a drink please.
Me: Get it yourself.
Them: I want to play Zingo.
Me: Get it yourself
Them: It's on the top shelf.
Me: You'll figure it out.
And something magical happened. Once I stopped being both their combination maid and butler, these needy little creatures actually began getting things themselves! The 6 year old got cups and poured juice for he and his little sister. They helped themselves to cheese sticks and crackers. They pulled a chair over, climbed on it and miraculously were able to get the game down.
"Get it yourself" soon lent itself handily to "Do it yourself" and soon the kids were able to unscrew the cap off of the toothpaste without my help, make their beds (not as well as I do, but the attempt was there) and put their clean laundry away in the proper drawers. I put them to work setting the dinner table in instead of just clearing their plates after their done hoovering down the delicious meal I've made for them.
Seeing their newfound independence, which had sprung out of necessity, made me a bit abashed. I guess I'd really been swaddling them in cotton wool as I tried to cater to their every demand. The kids seem much happier not having to depend on me for these basic things and Lord knows I'm much happier not being nagged by their demands for me to do things of which they're perfectly capable.
Now we've created a monster. My 6 year old requested to "ride to the corner store" on his bike to pick up milk. It's a busy road that leads into a much busier intersection. We initially resisted but he was adamant in his request. Independence is great but not at the expense of safety. So we allowed him to do it with my husband following him at ten paces behind.
I hope this doesn't come off as uncaring or callous but I love the newfound independence in my children. When I put my work aside for the day I look forward to spending time with them because I haven't been allowing them to nag me all day. They're not babies. They're 3.5 and nearly 7. And the fact that they are doing more themselves allows me the time I need to write. And this new way of being prevents our home from being a "child-centered" home which it was in serious danger of becoming for a while there....a home where the children call the shots and rule the roost.
Before tongues go wagging, it's like I've given up all responsibility or control. I don't let the kids chop up apples with knives, use the oven or entrust my 3 year old to give herself a tubby. However, what they can do, I let them do. And it turns out that even though they're kids, they can do a whole lot more than I ever thought.
I'm going to be very upfront about something. You won't be seeing a picture of me in a sports bra and boy shorts on social media any time soon. I've noticed this trend popping up lately as everyone shows their before and after pics but I'm pretty modest. That's not to take away from the people who get a lot of pride and motivation out of posting these pictures but it's just not for me. And there's a context issue. While I'd be comfortable on the beach in my bathing suit with whoever, I just don't want pictures of a scantily dressed me popping up on a Facebook feed next to my cousin's newborn baby and a recipe for gluten-free lasagna. But these before-and-after pictures are generally posted with an emphasis on working out, weight loss and eating more nutritiously -- all of which are really good things.
Because as much as I wish I could eat mass quantities of Broad Street Dough and NEVER exercise, I think that eating healthily and exercising is really important. Not just so you whittle yourself away to nothing, but so you're strong, happy and possess an energy level higher than that of a snail. For the past 4 months, I have been exercising at least four times a week which is massive, considering the number of times I exercised from September to January was ZERO.
And I hate exercising. I mean, I really, REALLY hate it. I hate it more than the NJ Housewives, the wardrobe of Miley Cyrus and Goldschlager combined.
While I'm on a run, I waver between feeling like I'm being tortured and praying that no one is watching me. It's awful. Like really, really awful.
When I take my weekly karate class, I curse under my breath as I'm made to do squat thrusts, spar guys twice my size who bat me away like a fly and plank for two minutes at a time. "Why am I DOING THIS to myself?" I wonder angrily, thinking I could be home curled up with a book, a wheel of brie and a box of chocolates from the Red Bank Chocolate Shoppe.
However, as much as I truly HATE AND DESPISE working out, I love having exercised.