Lately, Evaline has been coming to my bed in the morning hours and curling up as close as possible to me.
This morning, she bumped her forehead against mine and told me, as she does every morning, I love you too, Mama.
I hadn’t said a word, only let her lay here beside me and nuzzle her face against my shoulder, her forehead against my forehead, her feet kicking into the soft skin of my stomach. But, she says the same thing first, every morning, not I love you, but I love you too.
Hours later, she and Lila and Asher are spinning in and out of my bedroom in assorted dress up clothes. Watch, Mama. Watch. Lila preens in front of the mirror. Evaline tilts her head to her shoulder and strokes her hair while softly singing a subdued rendition of Let It Go. Shirtless Asher squats and whips two red and orange dress-up shirts around and around. He looks like a fire dancer at a luau and his stare is as intense. Watch.
They spin together back out of the bedroom and race to do their next wardrobe change. Don’t move, we’re coming back! Lila yells over her shoulder. They aren’t asking for much, only my attention, undivided, not in fast glances stolen from a glowing monitor.
I shut down the computer.
At the grocery store, we plan dinner together – red lentil stew, flat bread, chocolate avocado pudding. Lila pushes the carriage while Evaline charges beside her, thinking she’s helping.
At home, the kids take turns adding to the food processor to make dessert. Asher sucks raw honey from his fingertips, Alex hovers beside me until I let him take over the pressing of pulse.
As they ate, I returned again to my computer.
I try not to read articles that are going to heap an extra helping of Mommy Guilt on my soul. I try not to read much at all, of other people’s opinions on how I should raise my children, how I should balance my time, give my efforts or energy. I try not to, because I don’t need to feel that I am failing at one more thing.
My three AM mom-somnia moments are full enough.
Oh, I should never help my child at a playground.
Oh, I should always help my child at the playground.
Oh, I should take my child to the playground.
Still, in the hours after Evaline’s nuzzling and the dance party and surviving the grocery store and the mess in my kitchen, I read an article that I knew would be convicting. I knew it, by the stock image of a woman, looking down, engrossed in *something* on her smartphone. I knew it, by the title, The Mother Who Dang Near Killed Us…
I read it anyway, perhaps just because I wanted to be certain that it was what I thought – an essay addressing people on their phones while driving. It’s a pet peeve of mine, while in the car with Vinnie, but one that I can’t say that I haven’t ever done myself. I don’t read articles or check email behind the wheel, but yes, I talk-to-text (and then go in and correct everything wrong that my phone has typed, because my phone hates me and seeks to embarrass me in new and interesting ways on a daily basis.)
Anyway. I read it, prepared for the worst, the feeling of being a bad mother, of being distracted, of being selfish.
But, then a strange thing happened. I didn’t feel any of those things.
I felt reassured that I am present with my children.
Yes, maybe I work too much, I let them finish school work early and play, I never get them to baseball or karate on time and I hardly know what to do when it comes to crafts – but they know I’m here, watching, listening, participating. They know we are together, in my bedroom as they dance, in the kitchen, scooping avocado flesh and singing songs about how much we love chocolate.
I was awake this morning at 3:30, hours before Evaline would curl up and snuggle with me, hours before the dance party or the evening of pureeing avocado into dark chocolate decadence.
There, in the dark, I felt myself breaking apart over and over and over, divvying up pieces of time and energy, to hours in the car, in dentist offices, in grocery stores, in portrait sessions, hours on the computer, on the treadmill, on my phone, saying no, saying yes, saying nothing at all and then getting frustrated at my children for not listening, tick, tock, moments spent, life spent, until all that remained was too exhausted to fight sleep anymore.
And then, it was morning. There was Evaline and her soft, sweet, I love you, too.
And I know that I am present, in those dark hours, in the early morning cuddles, in the dance parties, in the cocoa powder dusted kitchen counter, in the stirring of pots of soup and the endless trail of dishes and laundry.
I am present, in this life.
And in this moment, that is enough.