93: Special Hour
93: Special Hour
Lost time is never found again.
Even though I was a stay-at-home mom, there were never enough hours in a day to accomplish everything I set out to do. My husband helped me around the house, my three-year-old son was unusually well behaved, and yet I constantly felt pressed for time.
It seemed like we had a revolving door in our home. Our social life was active. People dropped in knowing they’d be welcome. There was always a pot of coffee going, along with an abundance of home-baked goodies. I was always available for friends with problems who wanted to talk. If someone visited at mealtimes, there was plenty to fill an extra plate.
I prided myself on being a friend whenever needed, but while I was accessible to everyone else, I began to notice I was becoming less available to my own family.
One afternoon in particular opened my eyes. It was a gorgeous summer day, but I hardly noticed. I was intent on getting my groceries home before the ice cream melted. My son was dawdling like most three-year-olds, inspecting every flower, blade of grass and crack in the sidewalk. I barked for him to hurry, yanking his arm less gently than I normally would. He reluctantly toddled behind me, his little legs pumping to keep up with my impatient pace.
“Not today, honey,” I informed him, making an effort to soften my voice. I was expecting three friends for dinner, not counting lastminute drop-ins, and I still had a lot to do. There simply wasn’t time to stop at the park, even for a few minutes.
I tried to ignore the pleading look in my son’s eyes, feeling even guiltier when his little shoulders slumped in quiet, resigned acceptance. It occurred to me that I’d seen him do that far too often lately. I cringed inwardly, remembering all the times I’d shooed him away when he asked me to play with a new toy or watch a cartoon with him. Lately, we’d even stopped reading bedtime stories, too. Instead I’d rush through our bathtime ritual, get him into pajamas and tap my foot anxiously while he brushed his teeth, ushering him off to bed so I could return phone calls or get back to a card game with company.
When we got home, I sent my son to play in our back yard while I quickly unpacked the groceries and put them away. I hurriedly tidied up and was about to put the roast in the oven when I noticed I didn’t hear him babbling to himself the way he always did. I hurried out the back door, my heart in my throat, breathing a sigh of relief when I saw him sitting quietly on the top step hugging himself.
“Are you okay, honey?” I asked, checking his forehead to see if he had a fever. It was unusual for him to be so quiet. Satisfied that his brow was cool, I spun around to get back to my preparations, not even waiting for him to answer my question.
“Mummy, sit with me?” he pleaded.
“Not now, David,” I told him. “I’m very —
“Busy,” he finished for me. “I know.” His sad, wistful tone pierced through me, and I turned to look at him as he stared blankly ahead.
That’s when I noticed the changes in him. He was losing that baby look. His little face seemed longer and leaner. The pudginess of his soft arms and knees was almost completely gone. When had that happened? When did I last pick him up to nestle my nose in his clean hair or inhale the sweetness of him?
I raced back into the house. Popping the roast into the refrigerator, I checked quickly to make sure I had what I needed to make my son’s beloved hot dogs instead. Then I picked up the phone to cancel dinner plans, not caring if my friends would be upset.
Grabbing juice boxes, a few cookies and some fresh fruit, I called my son.
“Let’s go,” I told him, smiling widely.
“To the store again?” he asked, and I was overcome with shame. It was about the only place I had taken him lately.
“No, we’re going to the park,” I announced, squirming guiltily when I saw his expression of pure joy over such a small outing. “Get your bucket and shovels and some trucks, okay?” I added, handing him a bag for his toys.
He scurried back less than three minutes later, his bag bulging with assorted treasures from his room. I spotted his white stuffed frog peeking out and ignored my voice of reason. Dirt washes out, I reminded myself cheerfully, grabbing my house key and taking his hand.
My son talked non-stop all the way to the park, and I listened to his chatter with renewed loving interest. For two hours, we played together, digging in the sandbox, swinging, seesawing and climbing on the park equipment. Then we sat on the grass with our snacks while we looked for animals in the clouds.
When we got home, I put him down for a nap, not even bothering to scrub his face or hands. I watched him doze off with a tired but blissful smile and swore to myself that things would change.
The next day, I implemented Special Hour. At least four times a week, I hung a Do Not Disturb sign that David helped me make on our front door. We ceremoniously took the phone off the hook, turned off the TV and set the oven timer for sixty minutes. Then my son decided what he wanted to do with that time — his time. We would read stories, color, draw, build a lopsided castle with blocks, or just talk. But no matter what he chose, he had my undivided attention.
If the doorbell rang, I would ask the caller to return later. As the answering machine collected messages, I lost myself in my son’s little world of fantasy, imagination and fun. Depending on what shift my husband worked, he would join us when he could. Many times, we were so engrossed in what we were doing that we ignored the timer going off to finish whatever project we were immersed in.
Special Hour lasted for many years until my son, an only child, began school and had a social life of his own, becoming too active to “amuse Mom and Dad.” I often think back on those days, grateful that I discovered the importance of making time for what was most precious in my life — before being a busy mom made me too busy to be a mom.
Title: Reprinted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC © 2014. In order to protect the rights of the copyright holder, no portion of this publication may be reproduced without prior written consent. All rights reserved.