Knowing what’s important in the moment
My phone dinged with a message containing a photo of my daughter in her life jacket and sunhat sitting on the banks of the Little Muddy River looking up at her daddy looking down at her in his Superman shirt.
A smile spread across my face. It was a sweet moment captured on a kayaking trip my in-laws take each June. I’m usually there, but this year I opted to send my husband out the door with our toddler, her swimsuit and vats of sunscreen so I could work on tackling the fossilized blueberries on the floor. It’s been a busy spring made more exhausting by the first trimester of pregnancy and the thought of an entire, uninterrupted weekend dedicated to house chores was appealing in a way that sort of scared me. The 23-year-old version of me would have slapped me if I told her that one day we would trade an 80-degree day on the river for sucking dead flies out of the windowsills.
Turns out, at that moment, the 33-year-old version of me wasn’t too happy with our decision, either.
“I should be there with them,” I whined, alone in the house in my cutoff shorts with the top button undone. And then I posted the photo on social media as a warning to other moms to not make the same poor choices.
But as the day played out, as I mowed our scraggly lawn and excavated the dried fruit fossils from between the cracks in our hardwood floor, I started to shed the guilt I felt about missing a moment and replaced it with a dose of vindication.
We hear it all the time as parents. “Chores will always be there, but the kids are one sleep away from moving out and only calling on the holidays.”
Time goes fast. My 1-year-old has already started making meal requests, so I’m aware. And I get that these statements are meant to help take the pressure off, but sometimes I feel like they put more pressure on.
Maybe my tight shorts are making me a little cranky, but do you know what else is true about those dishes? They can only wait forever if you prefer paper plate suppers or are anticipating a call the TLC network asking you to star in an episode of “Dish Pileup” or whatever.
And yes. The work will always be there, especially if my family spends every day at the lake. But then who’s gonna pay for those groceries I carefully selected while my two loves were kayaking care-free down the river together?
I don’t know. And I’ll tell you, I appreciate the encouragement to relax a bit. Lord knows I need reminding.
But here’s my amateur parenting advice for the day: You know what’s important in this moment. Sometimes it’s taking your baby down a waterslide on a Friday afternoon, sometimes it’s letting her watch Elmo while you pay the bills and sometimes it’s sending her off for the weekend with a sunhat and her Superman dad so that mountain-sized pile of laundry can get folded and finally leave the three of you to play in peace.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughter on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.