Weekly Column: The bricks I put on their heads don’t seem to be working.

©2007, Stephenie Freeman
This was originally written three years ago right before the Cheese started Kindergarten.  Now as the Monkey is getting ready to do the same, I can’t help but look back for a quick reality check.
For the first time, I stopped everything I was doing to watch my kids.
It’s not like it sounds, but my kids and I lead parallel lives.  They play while I clean.  They watch television while I fold laundry.  They color pictures while I read a book.  It’s a nice little arrangement we have, me and my boys.  It’s what works for us, and they know that no matter what I’m doing, I’m always there if they need me.
Except if Mommy’s in her office and her “fingers are busy typing.”  Then they know to proceed with caution.
Turns out, I was blessed with the kind of kids who can easily entertain themselves, leaving me to be the must-get-it-all-done-to-prove-I-don’t-watch-TV-all-day, multi-tasking fool that I am.  But aside from the occasional, “Mommy, look at me!” my kids are usually happy on their own.
Oh, I’ve spent my fair share of time on the floor putting together train tracks and setting up battle scenes for Star Wars figurines.  And I’m embarrassed to admit that once I fell flat on my face while playing a quick game of one-on-one soccer.  But typically I’ve always been too busy with the mundane chores of motherhood to participate in the many joys of childhood.
Then a couple of days ago, I got a wake-up call.  It came in the form of a letter from our neighborhood elementary school that was filled with information about the upcoming school year.  This letter brought with it the reality that my son, whom I had spent practically every waking moment with for the last five years, was about to venture out into the real world without me.
Suddenly I had the overwhelming feeling that my time with my son was running out.  My first-born, whom we nicknamed the “Cheese Eater” because of his sincere love of dairy products, had unexpectedly grown up.
My son was about to be… a Kindergartner.
I panicked and called my husband at work.
“How are we going to buy the Cheese Eater a car?  There’s only eighty-three dollars in the savings account.” I asked before even saying hello.
“What are you talking about?”
“He’s turning sixteen, in like, eleven years!  It won’t be long before his voice will start to crack and he’ll be asking for his own cell phone.  We have got to figure this out—today!”
The panic and impatience in my voice was a little extreme, but I was a mother who was losing her baby.  I was the embodiment of a classic cliché, wondering, “Where had the last five years had gone?”  Time had gotten the best of me, and while I was busy making sure the house always looked clean in case someone stopped by, my son was growing up.
So today, I took the time to stop and watch my children.  I watched as my two-year-old carefully lined up a hand-full of plastic Marines across my coffee table.  I watched as my five-year-old complemented his little brother on doing a fine job and then knocked down the Marines with one effortless swipe from an empty paper towel roll.  I watched as they took turns using the paper towel roll as some sort of weapon, laughing and chasing one another around the living room, having a ball until they wore themselves out and crashed into a pile on the couch.
Smiling, it dawned on me that these were the noises I would hear while unloading the dishwasher or making the beds.  This is what my children were up to while I was off being busy.  Suddenly I wished that I had cleaned the toilets less and watched my child more.
The good thing is, my children won’t be leaving me officially for at least another thirteen years or so, giving me plenty of opportunities to stop and watch them grow up and save up for a car.
The toilets will just have to wait. 

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