Stop what you’re doing right now, the thing where you make lists in your head of all the shit you need to do that you already know you won’t do today. Clean your bathroom. Change the sheets. Call someone to repair the siding that was damaged in a storm a month ago. Get to the bank to open a savings account for the baby, even though you’ve had a check in your wallet from your husband’s grandmother since the week after she was born. Write it all down already, tear up the paper, throw it in the trash. Make yourself a new to-do list that says this: Stop making to-do lists.
Stop telling your kids, Just a minute!, when they ask you to play with them, or Sure I can, right after I: wash the dishes, fold the laundry, feed the baby, pay this bill, finish this supremely important task that cannot wait.
Stop assuming the baby needs to eat or sleep every time she cries. Maybe she’s over being strapped to your torso or in a bouncy chair because you legitimately fear your other children will trample her if you allow her to lay on the floor and roll around holding her little feet, which is probably what she wants to do, because she’s a freaking baby. Maybe a boob in the mouth isn’t the answer to everything. Maybe she just wants you to look at her.
Stop picking things up off the floor as if you are accomplishing something. That Play-Doh top will be replaced by a Barbie shoe will be replaced by a half-chewed handful of raisins.
Stop checking your phone. The anecdote you posted this morning about your older two kids, and how they’re so hilariously dirty, has gotten 23 likes. So what? And it’s not like you have text messages. Your family and friends are all at work. Or, if they are at home with their kids, like you, they are too busy picking items up off the floor to think about texting you.
Stop looking at the clock and wondering when it will be nap time, when your husband is coming home, when you can put them in bed.
Stop thinking about how damn tired you are.
In this moment you are the luckiest person in the world, and you’re not even paying attention. In this moment these little girls are yours alone. One day you will have to share them, hand them over to teachers and mean girls and boyfriends and one day, God-willing, families of their own. In this moment they want their mommy, and you almost missed it.
Start here: When the older girls are napping, prop the baby up on the couch. See the way her eyes eat you up. Watch her smile when you smile. Coo to her: Goo. Gah. Hear her baby voice repeat after you. Hand her a rattle shaped like a bear or a cow, you’re not sure which. She bats it a little with her hands and lets it drop. Pick it up and shake it gently in front of her face. When she tires of this, lift her up over your head and look up at her. She is delighted, could do this for hours.
Later, when your four-year-old comes downstairs, follow her into the playroom. Clear a space for the baby to roll around. Play dolls: she is Ariel, you are Elsa. Drag a laundry basket into the already crowded space and pretend that it is a pool. Ariel dives right in while Elsa, ever cautious, perches on the side. Switch gears; she is a queen. Help her find the right tiara. Hold a tiny mirror in front of her face as she examines each option, finally settling on a silver and purple number from the Target dollar bin. Make the queen a pretend pizza in her pretend kitchen (pepperoni and green peppers, please), then ask her if she wants a real ice cream cone.
When you get another moment, after your husband has come home and dinner has been mostly eaten and put away, start a game of tag with the two-year-old. Chase each other around and around – kitchen, dining room, hallway, kitchen, dining room, hallway – while she giggles so hard you think she might actually vomit and the four-year-old watches from the table, shakes her head and says, “You two…”
Stop. Is there anything you would rather be doing? Is there anything you should have done today that you failed to do?
Not a thing.
Start being grateful. Start being present. Start being the mom your kids think you are. Start now.