I’ve been readying my house to sell this past week and a half, which is an enormous and exhausting task. I’ve packed boxes, carried boxes, sorted, cleaned, purged our home of “stuff” that we don’t need, shoveled mulch and rock, dug holes for plants in 100 degree heat. And not been the best mom. I accomplished a lot in a small amount of time, but I haven’t accomplished my main job well – taking care of my kids. Yes, they’ve been fed, they’ve been clothed (mostly), they’ve gotten to school with homework done and lunches packed, which at times is all you can do. But I didn’t do it with love. There’s been a lot of “hurry up” and “I said to put that away!” and “I just had that carpet cleaned!” Probably a lot of mean, ugly faces. I can tell, because I’ve seen the same kind of faces looking back at me. Luke has reached new heights of distraction, and Lily has perfected her talent of defiance. Sweet Mae, who is typically happy to roam the house finding things to do, smiling and singing and talking to her babies, has actually been stomping her little feet and lying on the floor in protest. She’s attempted a few sit-ins. She has sensed my frantic, grumpy attitude and responded in kind. Bummer.
One moment of calm and clarity did occur – with Mae – in the middle of the chaos. While I was putting away Polly Pocket dolls and tea party dishes, Mae came up with some play scissors from the beauty shop set. “I cut yo hay-ah?” I wanted badly to keep sorting. I was on a roll with the other two at school and I didn’t want to stop. But her sweet voice convinced me. I sat still. “Close yo-ah eyth.” I closed my eyes. She stood above me and I could hear her breath. The only sound in the room. I took a peek and saw her soft, chubby cheeks, her tiny lips pursed in concentration, her blue eyes watching the pink scissors in my hair. Everything stopped then. I gave in to it and let the moment be a moment instead of stealing it back. Mucking it up with things to do, the tyranny of the urgent. She saw me looking then and giggled, and it became a game of “close yo-ah eyth” and peeking and giggling, over and over again. It was so much better than accomplishing anything, as much as I enjoy that. This little person who will someday think I’m a dummy wanted to cut my hair. Wanted to giggle with me. Wanted her mommy to sit still for a minute. So I did, and it was worth it, and it made her feel loved, and it made me remember what really matters. Then I got back to work and we both felt better. Yay for moments. Yay for the whole reason we’re moving: my family.
I should have done more of this. I should have taken a few moments to give them a quick hug instead of an order, or played a game, or had the wherewithall to have the older two journal their feelings about moving or something meaningful like that. But I didn’t. So now I have to do some reconstruction. Go in after the damage has been done and rebuild, which is always harder than doing it right the first time around. Some post-war reconciliation projects are in order – some snuggling, some book-reading, some dance partying – while keeping the house tidy for showings. Is it too much to ask of myself? Maybe. Probably. But I’m going to try. I think they’re worth the effort, even if I fail. It’s the least I can do for my little war victims. There’s a lot more stress and busy-ness and, likely, grumpiness to come as the house-selling process continues. I can’t expect it to go smoothly, or for myself to be the perfect mother in the midst of it. But I can try. Each day I can do my best, and when I screw up, reconstruct and try again. It’s a crazy time. My goal is just a little less crazy.