This summer the boys are finally playing with each other. Legos, made-up games in their bedroom, race track building, watching TV. Unless I’m breaking up a fight, I’m starting to feel like a third wheel.
I have been looking forward to this moment – the moment when I’m not forced to play every round of Candy Land or assemble every train track creation, but now that it’s here, I’m a little sad. Sometimes I’m even bored. I don’t know how much is still my adjusting to not having work to sneak into my at home time or how much of it is the lazy days of summer or how much of it is just my need to constantly be in motion. Last summer, if the boys were preoccupied, I had emails to check or releases to write or media reports to update. Those moments of peace were filled with tasks being completed so that even if I found myself with no work and no boys to entertain, it was a relief to take a moment to myself and scan a magazine or simply sit and enjoy the quiet.
This summer, I find myself with an apparent abundance of time. And yet no time at all. Because the fact is, I can’t focus on any task of my own for too long before I need to interfere in an escalating altercation over whose Legos are whose or a pillow fight gone too far or the rare invitation to come and play, too. And then there is the unpredictability – some days, I need to be involved every 10-15 minutes. Other days, they might be content with each other for two hours. I never know when the play time starts what I’m in for.
I had a moment this weekend where I lamented to the hubby that I was bored. He chastised me that hadn’t I wanted this? This free time? This time to explore who I am and what I want to do? I agreed, but felt like I finally have the time and no idea how to fill it. After going back and forth, I realized what was really bothering me. It wasn’t that I had an hour to myself and chose to catch up on last week’s So You Think You Can Dance? It wasn’t that I was struggling with the writing (although I tried to blame it on that, too. I tried really hard.). The truth of the matter is that, at 7 and 4, the boys already don’t need me as much. And I don’t always like how that feels.
When they were toddlers, all I could focus on was the light at the end of the clingy tunnel of neediness. Now that I’m closer to the opening, it’s too bright out there. It’s scary and breathtaking and vast and a little lonely. I’m having to readjust my mothering to how they need me now. Now, they need me to be supportive, reassuring, a safe haven when they are scared, embarrassed or angry. They need me to laugh at their jokes and ask questions about their creations. They need me to point them in a direction and then let them take it from there.
These are hard lessons for this mama to learn.
I take comfort in the fact that I’m raising these two independent spirits who are creating together and building a brother relationship that is beautiful, loving, humorous, honest and oftentimes frustrating, angry and aggressive. But it’s hard to realize, sometimes, that I’m not always a part of it. I love seeing it and watching them navigate a day together, but sometimes I’m jealous that they don’t need me in it.
Until they do. Because someone got hurt, or is hungry or just wants to snuggle and read the next Harry Potter.
These moments are becoming more precious because in those moments the boys are choosing me. And while it’s hard to sit on the sidelines sometimes waiting to see when I’m needed or wanted, I am taking comfort in the fact that they know I’m there. There to help. There to laugh. There to play. There to hug.
It makes the now occasional round of Candy Land that much sweeter.