Three words my 3-year-old hears too much: “In a minute.”
“Mommy, can you help me?”
In a minute because I am changing his little sister’s diaper.
“Mommy, can you play with me?”
In a minute because I am cooking dinner.
“Mommy, can you look at this book with me?”
In a minute because I need to finish doing the dishes.
“Mommy, can we snuggle?”
In a minute because I need a minute to myself.
More than a minute passes, and it feels like I am watching my 3-year-old grow up from afar.
I see him sitting at the table, playing with Play-Doh on his own and making shapes and figures. I see him running around outside with our dogs by himself because mommy was busy with his little sister.
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I listen to him from another room while cooking, and he’s counting to 20 all on his own. I didn’t even know he could, and I am sure he has wanted to show me, but I told him I would listen—in a minute.
Why couldn’t I give him that minute? Why did I have to tend to the not-yet-boiling water in that minute?
I can never give those minutes back to my 3-year-old.
It feels like in that minute, my son grew faster than I could watch.
I need to slow down.
I feel so guilty.
He is growing so fast.
It won’t be this way for long.
What did those clean dishes mean to him? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He couldn’t care less that the dishes were clean.
He cared for just a minute of my time.
He would rather sit on the couch looking for three silver swords in his look-and-find book.
When he asked for help before I changed his sister’s diaper, I realized that he had tried putting something away that I hadn’t asked him to do, but he was doing it because he knew it would make me happy. Instead, I made his sister’s diaper my priority, and I missed seeing the pride on his face because he was helping me.
While the diapers still need changing, I can take a minute and give my attention to my 3-year-old. The diaper will still be there, but the more I tell him in a minute, the less time I have to watch him grow.
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I can’t count how often he wants a hug, asks to snuggle, or just touches me because he has given me all of his minutes.
But I was too busy using his minutes to see that I needed to give him mine.
The guilt is overwhelming when I realize these things all at once. It is so easy for me to go-go-go as a mother. But my kids, and especially my 3-year-old who was an only child just a year ago, need my minutes right now more than they ever will.
I am learning, though, that my son is incredibly forgiving. As guilty as I feel, I know he isn’t holding a grudge. So I will get up the next day and focus on being better, but I will remember that the guilt I feel isn’t going away because it is a sign I am a great mother. We have been given each other for nothing more than the love we give each other. Our love was tailored for our babies and their love was tailored for us. They will forgive you, and their desire for your minutes is abundant.
So mommas, daddies, and caregivers alike, you’re doing fantastic! You will learn to work with that guilt and let it make you better. Your babes love you so much.