Balance. The nature of “three” is imbalance. I try and fail to picture a triangular see-saw. The thing I am finding hardest about parenting two children is achieving balance and helping meet everyone’s needs, not just the clean bum, full tummy needs but everything after; fun and exercise and engaged parent types of needs. The quality of life stuff.

It is so simple when there is one child. Eventually that child must sleep and when he does, I get my needs met. I get my list-making time, my internet surfing time, my ice cream eating time. I can make phone calls, thaw meat, make chili. Do laundry, bag maternity clothes, sweep the floor for the hundredth time. Write fiction, write blog posts, write email.

When the child wakes up, I am happy to see him. I have what I need and I am full of Everything For Him. He won’t leave my side? It is OK! He won’t sit down but must walk around the house holding my hands? Not a problem! He wants to climb all the stairs to the top of our townhouse? You get the idea!

Obviously I have had a taste of this recently or I would not be able to wax so eloquently. Trombone was at his grandparents’ house overnight Sunday and Monday morning I remembered what it is to have all the needs met at once. Trombone’s because he was subjected to full attention from two people he loves (and who have The Good Yogurt in their fridge). Saint Aardvark’s because he could spend Sunday evening bottling his beer and then have a leisurely morning before work. Mine because I got an embarrassment of time (like, two hours!) to just putter. Fresco’s because my needs had been met so I was delighted to watch him pet the cat for 45 minutes. Even the cat – long the lowest life form in the house, now the proud recipient of Fresco’s unabashed love – had his needs met.

I miss that.

It is well and good to talk of being In the Moment and Here & Now, but I realized, later, that to be fully present for my kids, to be paying attention while they play and talk and learn all day, I need to have spent enough time on me. Otherwise I am resentful of the time I must spend on them, always looking for a shortcut, a sneaky way to get my time and have them think they are getting their time as well. Long walks with them strapped in the buggy, for example: for me, not really for them.

I know it is necessary that I do that sometimes, that I take what is important to me so I can be mentally healthy enough to look after others. I do know the old saw about the oxygen mask.

This morning I practiced. I sat on the floor and I saw the dirt around me that I ought to have been sweeping and way beyond like a mountain range I could see the kitchen counter overflowing with dishes and half-eaten bowls of applesauce from breakfast and I thought briefly about getting up to check my email or read just one blog or make one phone call to cross one more thing off my list for the week but I chose to ignore my mind’s chatter for a few minutes and just look at Fresco singing and dancing along to the radio, shaking his baby bottom, grinning at me, just past nine months old. I talked with Trombone about the noodles he swore he could feel when he squeezed my belly.

There it was; fleeting but smiling. Balance.

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