He does it again. I’m working on something on the computer and he screams to me from the bathroom, “Mommy!!! I’m going poopy! Come ‘ere!!!”
So I grumble something about learning to wipe your own butt and I stop mid-project to trudge into the bathroom, wipe that still baby-white bottom (which doesn’t actually have any poop on it, but you can never take chances with a three-year-old), and help him pull up his shark “undershorts” (because he refuses to call it “underwear”).
I don’t love helping him brush his teeth in the morning when we’re rushing to get out the door. I don’t love having to stop mid-scramble to pour his cereal because a gallon of milk is still too much for his little muscles to handle. I don’t enjoy pausing in the middle of a project to wipe his bottom…especially when he calls me in only to decide that he’s not really done and I have to stand there for five more minutes, because…”man in training.”
There’s always another ‘but’ isn’t there?
Looking at parenthood from the other side you see the ‘buts’ more clearly. From the “Do you like the outfit I’m wearing?” elementary schooler. From the “Don’t drop me off in front of the school anymore, Mom.” tween. From the “I’ll be home by 10!” teenager. From the “Love ya, Mom. I’ll see you in a few weeks.” college student.
From that angle, these “inconveniences” aren’t so bad. Steadying that little body while he steps into his shorts. Smiling into those little eyes while I brush his teeth. Chatting with him while I pour him some milk. Tickling his belly while I buckle him into his carseat. And even giggling while he sits on the potty. They interrupt the day. They get in the way. They make me stop what I’m doing.
But that’s the blessing of it.
They make me stop what I’m doing and pay attention to him. They break my eye contact with my screen and they force me to make eye contact with him. They stop my busy bustling around the house and create moments to pause and be close. Really close. Close enough to kiss his nose before we turn back to whatever we were doing.
As time races towards independence and school days and fast cars, it’s these moments that I’ll miss. I know that. We all know that. But I see it now more than ever, because…
…my daughter is in second grade. So big, and yet still so small. And I see her watching us. Wanting so badly to do it all herself while at the same time wishing that I was still close enough to brush her teeth and tie her shoes. Able to be almost completely independent, but still needing me to help steady her when she loses her balance and to help her do things that she is not yet strong enough to do.
There are few opportunities anymore for us to be close, though. No excuses or needs built into our day. No interruptions that force us to make eye contact or grab a quick hug or bring us together.
So we must create them.
No, I don’t wipe her bottom anymore, but I do wipe her tears. She doesn’t call for me to come to the bathroom, but she does call for me to see how she cleaned her room. I don’t help her balance to put on her pants, but I do help her balance life when we’re chatting over breakfast. I don’t buckle her into her carseat, but I do sometimes run around to her side and give her a hug before shutting the door.
And when we do find ourselves with the rare opportunity to be face-to-face and eye-to-eye, I almost ALWAYS take that chance to kiss her nose.