My son’s been home from school for 8 days with H1N1 and then strep throat. He finally went back yesterday and it felt like the first time I’d had the house to myself in a month. The last thing I wanted to do was go to school for an activity…I just wanted to be home in peace and quiet. So I missed the Fun Run Boosterthon both my kids ran in yesterday. They both asked me repeatedly when they got home why I wasn’t there. “I kept looking for you,” Anna said, which nearly split my heart in two. I should have gone. But I was fretting over the dirty laundry and the rings in the toilets and the tufts of dog hair in every corner. So I didn’t go.
And here’s the thing. I should know what’s important. I’m a cancer survivor. I’ve had the rug pulled out from under me and it took me about a mili-second to know what really matters. It’s family and friends. That’s it. Nothing else. I of all people shouldn’t get caught up in the laundry or the dirty floors. But I still do. I still find myself clinging to the impossible ideal of a spotless house and neatly folded laundry and sparkling floors. Yesterday I needed someone to remind me that someday all too soon my floors will be too clean, my house will be too quiet and there will be too little laundry to do.
“I have been given two special gifts in life. One is that I have an uncanny ability to fit that last dish into the dishwasher, no matter how full it seems to the mere mortal. And second, I know. I know that while my children are young, these are the sweetest years of my life. I know that they are perfect. I know that I think every day about how wonderful life is when they are here with me, running around, making messes, crying about skinned knees and complaining about taking their medicine. I know that these two little people have erased all my past mistakes; nothing matters except the beauty and joy and laughter that they’ve brought with them… And I know that my heart will be broken when it comes time for them to leave my home and start their own. I know that time will come much too soon. I know that I must cherish this time and make the most of every birthday, every autumn afternoon, every puzzle, every bike ride, every recital, every game, every holiday, every summer, every hug, every chance to soothe a boo-boo or help solve a homework equation. I know that my life is their life. And that their lives are the sweetest part of mine. I just know.”
I do know that too. Sometimes, I just need a reminder. So today, I will go eat bad macaroni and cheese in the school cafeteria…and savor every minute of it. (And Steph: thank you.)
Sara Ellington is the author of The Mommy Chronicles: Conversations Sharing the Comedy and Drama of Pregnancy and New Motherhood (Hay House, 2005) and The Must-Have Mom Manual (Ballantine/Random House, April 2009) now available at Target!