In the time since we've pledged not to buy anything new, I have rediscovered lots of things in my house. When I need something now, I have to make do. And now that its been 3 months and I'm so used to it, I wonder why I was ever so closed-minded as to go out and buy something for a specific purpose when something else would do. Little things--I got to looking at my cell phone the other day and realize it has the functions of about 12 things I own--camera, alarm, memo, clock, timer, address book... I can do way more on the computer than I ever thought to do before. I can reserve library books and DVDs, watch cable shows and shows I missed on TV, pay my bills. And of course, there was the one time we laughed ourselves silly when we finally used the timer on the VCR to record a show--technology that's been nearly obsolete for a decade but hey, its there and we own it and why go out and buy something else?
The list of rediscoveries goes on and on, but one thing I never realized I would rediscover was my kids. I'm home with them all day, I talk to them and play with them, I KNOW them. But the thing about kids is that they are always changing. They are complex little creatures with thoughts, hopes, dreams, questions, goals and fears. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own world that their little protests and questions seem inconvenient or unimportant to us. But I'm finding now that what I learn about my kids through day to day interaction really just scratches the surface of who they are, and who they are becoming.
We've changed our schedule a little in the house recently, which has led me to my epiphany of rediscovery. The kids have always been put to bed at the same time. The 8-year-old gets a hug and a kiss and a "good night", then I go on to rock the little one to sleep. I have always enjoyed the time with him at night--the only time he is ever still enough to hold and talk to. Well, this has never gone unnoticed by the 8-year-old, and she's always wanted her share of the attention to. In the past few months, she's really fussed and complained about wanting me to lie down with her for a few minutes before she falls asleep. After all my thoughts of "She's way too old for this" and "I can't get this started when my hands are full as it is", I finally realized--she needs something from me, and neither she nor I probably know what it is. So after spring break, we decided to put the little one to bed an hour later. He plays with Daddy in his playroom while I spend time with big sister. This has worked far better than I thought, for many different reasons. Now that hubby gets home later, he misses out on time with the kids and they need it. And a later bedtime keeps the little one in bed an hour later in the morning, and I have been able to get the whole day up and running and organized in that blessed hour of peace. The whole day runs more smoothly, and I have more time for him and for everyone because everything is done.
But for the really amazing part--my daughter talks to me. And she is a really neat, really wonderful kid. All year, I have been asking the usual Mom questions--"How was school? Who did you play with today? How was your spelling test?" I pretty much get a shrug and an "I dunno". At dinner we have fun chatter, and we certainly spend time together and talk about lots of other things. But at night, she says she just feels like she needs to be hugged. And if I sit there, not talking, just "being there", her words start to tumble out. "Guess what so-and-so did at P.E.!" and "You know what happened in math?" and after that, there are sometimes questions. "What happens when people die? Are there really UFO's?Why did Grandpa Dan get cancer? Is Dad going to get it? Can we get another cat?" They come at me, no particular order, just a jumble of things she's trying to sort out in her 8-year-old mind. I find I have to answer without any change in tone of voice, because the first hint of amusement or concern will close the door immediately. After the questions often come the things that weigh on her most heavily, probably the real reason she needs Mom and needs to be hugged. "So-and-so yelled at me at recess and called me stupid". "I forgot my math book in the other room and the teacher was really annoyed". And things that tug at my heart--"Am I ugly?" What can I say? "Of course not! Did someone tell you that?" Silence. "Why do you think that?" Silence. But I've been hearing that one alot, and I know she's reached the age where she's self -conscious, other kids' opinions matter, and Mom can't fix everything. But I can listen, I can hug, and I can be there. And I can learn more and more about this wonderful kid, whose thoughts and questions and fears are important and real.
Every day I see neighbor kids coming home at 7 at night, their parents tired and impatient and shooing them in to do homework and get to bed. In the morning I see the same kids, often fussing and crying as their parents shoo them out the door, warning them to hurry up and not make everybody late. And all I can think is that those kids have so much to offer, and I hope their parents are listening. I hope they aren't those gadgets in the house with all those cool features and capabilities that get forgotten and underused because life is just too busy.