You see the soft white bristles just poking from the pillow’s edge. “A feather, give it a pull,” I say, and your eyebrows raise with the intrigue of something new. Breaking it from the pillow’s embrace you stop and hold it in the air, transfixed as if it were the whole world between your two fingers. You hand the feather to me, sharing your new treasure and wait to see what feathers can do. I turn and trace the delicate lashes across your cheek, up and down your arm, beneath your chin, and it is I who becomes transfixed by the giggles that burst from your wide smile.
In that moment I can think of nothing higher to Heaven than the sound of your laugh flowing through my ears.
After some time, you are ready to try something new, as toddlers often are. I take the feather up again and place it in my palm, purse my lips, and blow it lightly in your direction. You watch it coast and float gently down to your lap. Now it’s your turn, so I teach you how to spread out your fingers, lay the feather gently in your open hand, and give it just enough air to send it flying. So much delight to be found in a single breath. We sit there blowing feathers back and forth, back and forth. Time passes and we forget about time.
As a mom, I am normally acutely aware of the time. What time did you wake up? How long was your nap? Are we going to make it to music class on time? And the ever-present question: is it bedtime yet? Some days get overrun with an onslaught of schedules and “to-dos.”
On days like this, I get caught up and focus only on what’s next, instead of seeing what is.
Blinded by my need to get it all done, I miss your tiny calls for connection. The rock you wanted to inspect, the stairs you wanted to climb, or the shoe you wanted to put on by yourself, all become hindrances to keeping up with some fast-moving train I seem determined to ride. But why?
Reflecting on this, I become aware of one major factor that contributes to my need to follow the clock: the word should. So many expectations wrapped up in such a tiny word.
I often feel the power of this word when well-meaning people ask questions about my life as a stay-at-home mom. “So, what do you do all day? How do you fill your time? Do you ever get bored just being at home?” I usually have two gut reactions to their inquiries. The first is frustration because I am fully aware of how busy my day is chasing a toddler and running the household, but I know when I try to express this to others, they don’t really understand and I am met with a lot of nodding and blank stares. The other reaction is often panic. I panic because my brain runs through the events of our days, and I feel this sense of inadequacy because nap times, feeding schedules, and laundry don’t sound significant enough to explain to anyone. But if I can also respond to that person with how many classes, groups, and lessons we attended that week, maybe that will be enough, and they can somehow imagine how we “fill our time” each day.
So, as I allow the pressure of my own self-doubt take over, I follow the clock and fill it up with what I think we should be doing.
Thankfully though, that’s where you come in, my child. However powerful the clock might be, the needs of a toddler are even more powerful. Your pleas, and whims, and demands are designed to remind me that the clock is not what matters, and you show me this in unexpected moments throughout our day. Your raised eyebrow, your outstretched hand, the way you turn your head when you are thinking. These nuanced gestures that seem so insignificant are truly the most memorable when I reflect upon our days together.
It’s in these small moments I am reminded of what this whole parenting thing is all about.
It’s not about filling out the perfect schedule or living up to some imaginary expectations. It’s about slowing down and taking the time to blow feathers on the couch on a rainy day. It’s about doing something for no other reason than to see your eyes widen in delight as you experience something new. It’s about letting you be my greatest teacher, reminding me each day of the joy to be found when we remember to forget about time.
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