The Sweet Spot

(I was lucky enough to be selected to read this piece at the “Listen to Your Mother” Boulder Show in 2017.)

When I do my standard public restroom squat-hover move these days, sometimes I find that I pee all the way down the inside of my right leg.  I try to correct mid-pee – to tilt something slightly in some direction – but inevitably… I just peed my pants in a super-weird way; while not entirely wearing them, only in the right leg and probably starting around the back of the knee-area.  

What is going on up in there?  Is this because I haven’t made time for more than 30 kegels in the year since my third son was born?  Do I need to start a kegel regimen?  I’m feeling like extra time is non-existent at this particular point so… how important is it to me to not wet myself?  

Every night, my five year old pleads with me after story-time in his sweetest voice, “Will you lay with me mama?”  Now, he is of course the most beautiful-skinned, dark-eyed delicious and manipulative thing.  And in my mind I’m like, “UUUUUAARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!  I’ve been ushering small humans towards their beds for over an hour. I’ve got 40 minutes minimum of damage control to do around the house.  I’m kinda ready to be done with the whole super-mom portion of the day.  

But… look at that kid.  There’s remnants of a Wile E Coyote tattoo on one cheek, plenty of toothpaste crust, an overgrown bush of sandy blonde hair, his scrawny little dinner-boycotting chest and arms curling up around his tattered Winnie-the-Pooh.  How many more nights will he ask me to stay?  And when will this day ever result in a couch and a Cabernet?” 

Should I protect my baby’s sacred morning nap time (and with it a sliver of me time)?  Or should I force him into one of those useless stroller catnaps while attending my second grader’s runathon?  An event, by the way, where I might find myself effectively chasing my child around the field, attempting to have a mother-son moment, while he repeatedly suggests that he doesn’t need me to run with him. 

I assume there are many “sweet spots” in our mothering days – and let’s be honest, each of these “spots” is probably equal parts sweet and shitstorm.  That’s the nature of mothering.  But, I digress: I am smack in the middle of a sweet spot.  

It was kind of accidentally self created.  My aging body, you see, refused to get pregnant for a couple years and so instead of a 7 year old, a 5 year old and a 3 year old, I now have a 7 year old, a 5 year old and a one year old.  This particular spot feels so sweet because I am at the beginning with one of my boys.  He’s still with me all day every day; my world is his world.  And I have another boy who, although he is only seven, has a fair bit of life going on without me and near as I can tell given his subtle facial expressions and sensitive word choices, he’s pretty comfortable with that.  

When he was a baby, the days, quite honestly, dragged.  There was never enough time and yet I was unimaginably bored.  Now – BOOM –  he’s almost eight.  And so time, which is clearly racing by like all those damn old ladies in the grocery store warned, suddenly feels almost desperately precious.

At 41, I am already bemoaning how fast they grow up, calculating what portion of their time living in our house is already gone, realizing this intense mothering phase of my life is passing…. and I really just had a baby for god’s sake.  I’m pulled towards several sorts of grief: “once this door closes, that is it for this lifetime”, and alternatively: “I have so very long to go”. Some days I just want to get far away from here and all this noise and penis and just…. swords and choking hazards.  

But then I’d miss out. This time will be passed so I want to stay and soak it in… until I start pacing in a wee bit of an internal rage as one (who has never expressed interest in cooking before) is furious that I don’t have the ingredients in the house for him to make a Thai noodle dish for the family dinner in fifteen minutes; one is crumpled-on-the-floor devastated that he dropped his own structurally unsound lego creation and it shattered exactly as any rational person would expect it to; and one is….. I don’t know what the other one is doing.  Quiet toddlers aren’t a good thing.  Where the hell is he?

And so I weigh the options – quickly and hundreds of times every day – of what to do with time. Which choice will strengthen a connection or a character or a memory?  Which might make a child’s day, or give myself a break?  

I used to not put much thought into it as I tried to survive each day but as my oldest runs away from us more and more frequently, doing the world’s slowest wrestling match with the baby becomes more important; booking a massage becomes WAY more important; taking a couple minutes for an anti-spitting psa, or attempting to stay present as the entire plot of one Harry Potter book I have no desire to read is relayed to me in one seemingly never-ending sentence filled with hundreds of “and then and then and then’s” – it does become much more important.

Maybe next year I’ll start cleaning the kitchen table every night like I used to.  Maybe everyone will be able to wipe their own asses, but probably not well.  Maybe I’ll start kegels and stop peeing my pants… maybe not.  But for this year, I’ve got a sweet spot.  

At the end of each of these days of… whatever it is that I do all day, I often think “I don’t really want to have the kind of energy required to do THAT again tomorrow” but the morning comes and I usually sigh, and then, usually, smile because right now I have an extraordinary gift: to see that the moments in these days, delightful or disastrous, whether we choose to do nothing or entirely too much – they are all treasures of this fleeting sweet spot.