When my first child was born, I was quite intent on abandoning my career as a journalist, writer, photographer, page designer etc., and devote myself to being full time mom. I’d waited a long time for this little person and he and I began a journey of days filled with not the bliss I’d anticipated, but colic and tears, and frustration, and fear.
As colic faded, and our positive intensity grew, I put my considerable energy into experiencing everything my little fellow had to offer.
When he was six months old, toodling around in his Benge-mobile (walkers had wheels on them in those days, and his walker was his world; when he turned 10, his bike was his world…), I sat on the floor in our kitchen watching him and thinking, “how can it be possible to love this much? By the time he’s five and ready for school, I’m not going to be able to let him go!” Something inside me issued a warning that this could be unhealthy for the kid (never mind the mom) and I decided I needed to do a little part time work.
Of course, writing is a very portable activity, and bit by bit I set up work space in the house… a desk, phone, layout boards (no desktop publishing yet!), typewriter, photocopier (no fax machines yet!) and earned my first contract which was producing the Chamber of Commerce monthly members newsletter. The year was 1978 and home based businesses didn’t even have a name yet, so I guess I was running ahead of the pack.
Anyway, it got pretty hectic, and I was determined to be a full time mom, so I did my interviewing during naptime and I got up at 5:30am and stayed up until midnight to write. It was busy, busy, busy but I was managing to have all the time I wanted with my son, as well as keep myself reasonably current in my field of endeavour.
This is all background information so you’ll understand that sometimes the first thing I did when Benji went down for his nap was grab a fast shower.
And one day when he was about three and no longer napping, he was playing happily in his room; I’d been “on deadline” all morning and peeked in at him and decided that I could likely squeeze a five-minute shower into this time slot. So, I turned on the taps and jumped in the shower. Bathroom door left unlocked, of course.
In maybe six seconds, a little face poked itself around the shower curtain and the little fellow said, “Mommy, can I have some soap?”
“Why can’t I just have five minutes for myself,” I groaned inwardly, feeling very put upon. And then the angel who lives on my shoulder scolded me. “Wait a minute. These are precious, precious years. They’re coming only once with this child. You should enjoy every single moment. If the kid wants to take a shower with you, you should rejoice. It won’t last for very long.”
I stepped onto the bath-mat, stripped him down, and brought him in. I washed his hair and mine too. We splashed together. We laughed. Five minutes turned into 45 minutes because after the shower, there are two people to dry, dress, comb, brush teeth etc. The schedule was taking a beating with all this.
Of course during the entire experience I saw things only from my point of view. “Good mom,” I was saying. “He felt included. He knew you wanted to spend this time with him. You can grab all kinds of alone time in 10 years.”
After he was dressed and I was dressed and towels were hung up and powder put away, he cocked his blonde head and looked at me. “Mommy, now can I have some soap?”
“Show me,” I answered, realizing there was another reason for the request and he hadn’t wanted a shower at all.
He took me into his bedroom-playroom where a drawer was turned upside down on his floor. He took the cake of soap, rubbed it along the rails and struggled to get it back in place where it slid much more easily. (Did he see this on Sesame Street? On Polka Dot Door?)
And as I looked at it from his point of view, I wondered if the angel on his shoulder was saying, “C’mon now Benji. You have only a few years with your mom and then you’ll be a big boy and off on your own. If she wants you to have a shower, then you should put aside your sticky drawer and spend quality time with her.”
It’s been 19 years since this happened. I’ll never forget the lesson my son taught me that day. Jumping to conclusions, assuming a request for soap meant a request for a shower, sent us both in a direction we hadn’t planned. If only I’d communicated a little better. But it was a lesson for life. C & C. Clarify and Confirm. Then hug.