Wednesday, October 12, 2011

job description, again

I've been thinking lately about my 'job'. It used to be changing diapers and spooning runny food into mouths and nursing and changing diapers and making sure no one choked on the legos, but now it's different. There are times when it seems amorphous to me, when I can't get a handle on it exactly. And then there are other times. Like a couple of nights ago when Clark didn't want to go to sleep. He'd already been read to and sung to and had someone lie down with him and sung to again by multiple people (including my mom, who was visiting), but still he was not asleep. I met him halfway down the stairs and told him he needed to be in bed, and he asked what we grownups were doing downstairs. We were spending grown up time together, I said. "Are you sitting down?" Yes, we were sitting. "I want to sit with you, Mama. Can I pweeeeeesssseee?" Oh my. We were, in fact, watching Dancing with the Stars, which Clark loves. I told him he could come down for two dances, then it was back to bed.

Of course, when it was time to go back to bed Clark was not ready. By now it was an hour and a half past his bedtime, and I was done with negotiations. It was time. So I carried him upstairs shrieking hysterically and I put him in his bed. He climbed out and stood next to the bed. I picked him up and put him back in. He rolled out and stood. I put him back in. He rolled out. Again and again. Every time he rolled out he screamed NO I WON'T and he kept trying to push my anger button. There was a moment when I thought about getting angry, but decided against it. I thought two things: 1) good thing I didn't go to the gym because I'm now getting a great arm and back workout picking him up over and over, and 2) what else do I have to do? I mean, it would have been nice to go downstairs and hang with my mom, especially since it was her last night. But what struck me is that this is my job. This. Standing patiently, putting him back in his bed over and over, however long it takes. I don't have anywhere else to be, anything else to do. I did need to move the laundry to the dryer in the basement, but that could wait. In fact, it all could wait for this.

I thought the same thing last week when Frances had a screaming fit while I was cooking dinner. The end of it found her standing on the stove sobbing down! down!. I lifted her off the stove and she crumpled in my arms, and I just sat with her on my lap, as long as she needed. We could always eat tuna fish and crackers if I didn't finish cooking.

Over and over I learn this same lesson. I don't know why I forget. I slide into thinking that keeping the house is my job, or having things run on schedule, or organizing unruly and amazing amounts of clothes (a feat all its very own): goodwill, pass to friend, next season, too big. And while those certainly are my responsibilities, they are not primary. Simply being with the kids when they truly need me and my attention: that is my job.

Back to Clark, in case you're wondering how that turned out: after a while I started to count how many times I put him back in his bed. My guess is we'd gone about 15 rounds when I started counting, and I got to 32 (he was rolling out much more slowly each time by then though the screaming was just as lively). I was wondering how it would look when he finally gave up, then Mitch came to relieve me. Glad I've been lifting weights these days. 

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