I know I am married to Captain Fun, but one fact is established at my house: Mom doesn't play.
I am reminded of this regularly, and I freely admit it--playing is hard work for me.
But I have discovered that even the smallest attempts at playing are acceptable, even memorable, to my kids. When I know one of the kids is walking behind me, for instance, sometimes I turn around and yell "Scared ya!" I have actually had a child fall down in shock over such an unexpected act. And once in a while on the way to the bus stop, I challenge the kids to a race. "You know how to run?" Silas asked me the first time I did this. The younger kids think I am ancient and crippled, and I have to remind the older kids to tell their siblings about the young, thin, mom I once was.
I have also realized that, to them, time and play are interchangeable.
I don't chaperone field trips, sign up for Room Mom, or even make it to eat lunch with my kids. But I do try and show up once a year in the classroom to read or talk about writing or both.
When Silas' teacher sent a note home recently asking us parents to come share an activity we like, I knew this was something I could do. I secured Bethany to watch Hope (she didn't mind at all, even though every stranger she encounters thinks she is Hope's mom) gathered some books and headed out to read and talk about the elements of a story; specifically, children's stories.
Silas was beyond excited the morning that I was coming. Can I sit in your lap? Can I read with you? Can I turn the pages? Yes, yes, and yes, I told him.
The teacher had two chairs set up for us, and Silas and I were quite a team. He read Hope's favorite book, When the Rooster Crowed, to his classmates--one all my kids have memorized. I read the other three: The Seven Silly Eaters, The Teeny Tiny Teacher and My New Boy. We pointed out alliteration, repetition and the clever endings children's stories often have. Silas called on anyone who wanted to answer a question. Then his wonderful teacher encouraged the class to pay me two compliments. Much to her credit, the kids behaved perfectly.
"Can we thank Mrs. Sims for coming, and thank Silas for sharing his mom with us?" Everyone clapped.
As I got up to go, Silas reached over for a side hug. "I love you," he whispered.
Instantly I was reminded--again--that every little bit of one-on-one time matters. Last week Mary walked to the bus stop with me to get the younger ones. A five minute walk, but enough for a chat about how she is feeling in her new school. And yesterday Emma said that over Christmas break she wanted just the two of us to go out for breakfast.
I know you have the same list as I do: laundry, cooking, cleaning, taxi, church, homework, sports, baths, doctors, dentists, shopping. All moms are busy. And all moms worry about not spending enough time with their kids.
But I have learned that while I can't often dedicate a chunk of time to each one, I can always carve out a little. And regularly carving out a little time really does add up to be enough.
"The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him." Proverbs 31:1