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Can I Sit On Your Lap?

By Heather Herrick

Yesterday was a crazy day. In fact, by the end of most days lately I feel frazzled and think, “Aaah, I had a crazy day.” My new baby is now almost seven months old, my three-year-old son keeps telling me he’s a big little kid, and tomorrow my oldest daughter starts kindergarten.

So yesterday, I substituted an enthusiastic primary class of six-year-olds with my nursing baby in tow, wrestled my son from slithering under the pews at church while my husband conducted the Sacrament meeting music, then trudged up the hill home only to have him leave immediately for the rest of the afternoon. The missionaries and some friends were coming for dinner. We’ve had houseguests since Thursday (and we don’t live in a house, but a two-bedroom apartment, so that means someone sleeping in our living room, sharing our one bathroom) and we had stuff going all day on Saturday, so I didn’t feel that the “house” was missionary dinner ready. I enlisted the help of my big kids to clean up the living room . . . are you chuckling now? Yeah, my big three and five year olds had the assignment to put away all their stuff with no help from me. And though I’ve been training them to do this and there have been times they succeed, yesterday wasn’t one of those times. The baby was crying to be nursed, my kids were whining for help with their clean-up and I was crabbily lecturing them from the kitchen cutting board about being capable and just doing it when the phone rang. “Hi. What are you doing?” my friend asked. Hmmm, gotta be honest here, “Fighting with my kids.” I said. She laughed and I wanted to cry. Not in a sad way, just in a, “Pull it together and be a better parent way.” I told her I was going to say a prayer and try to have an attitude adjustment before she and the missionaries arrived.

Dinner turned out fine, the kids were wild and rowdy, but the missionaries did bring the spirit. After I prayed it must have been inspiration because I was reminded of Elder Ballard’s conference talk Daughters of God. Here are a couple of highlights that came to mind. I looked them up today so I could share them with you:

“First, recognize that the joy of motherhood comes in moments. There will be hard times and frustrating times. But amid the challenges, there are shining moments of joy and satisfaction.”

“Author Anna Quindlen reminds us not to rush past the fleeting moments. She said: “The biggest mistake I made [as a parent] is the one that most of us make. … I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of [my three children] sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less” (Loud and Clear [2004], 10–11).”

Last night after the bedtime preparation was finished, jammies on, scripture story read, teeth brushed, prayer said, I was ready to get it done. But my son came out of his bedroom and said, “Mom, you said I could sit on your lap. Can I sit on your lap now?” He was right. I had told him while I rushed around cleaning up and cooking before everyone showed up, “I can’t hold you right now, but you can sit on my lap later.” So I looked at him with his surfer-boy blond hair that curls up around his ears when he sweats, his sleepy round brown eyes, his body that is stretching out of chubby toddler into big little kid that just fits into his Peter Pan pajamas, and picked him up. I held him tight on my lap and thought, “Enjoy the doing. Enjoy these moments.”

(Also read, Cream of Wheat from our current issue. How do you successfully enjoy the moments of motherhood? What helps you remember? Survive? Prioritze?)

About Heather Herrick

Heather currently lives in the center of the universe (she’s not being egotistical, it’s true—ask any other New Yorker). She loves NYC, but misses the mountains of Utah where she grew up. Heather and her husband are glad that the baby from her poem now sleeps alone; baby two spoils her mama by having the cutest dimple ever, and hopefully will not become a kicker like her sister.

16 thoughts on “Can I Sit On Your Lap?”

  1. Just yesterday, I'd put my 1 1/2 year old down for a nap at the end of an exhausting morning and afternoon: a Super Saturday Enrichment debacle (crafts locked in keyless closets, missing checks, etc etc), combined with having a big group of my extended family over to celebrate my 12-year-old's ordination as a Deacon (a wonderful thing, despite all the craziness . . . but wonderful things often come with craziness attached, especially when you're the mom). Anyway! It was a busy day.

    So I'd put my baby down, late, for his afternoon nap. Shooed the extended family out the door. Shooed the big kids downstairs. Then my husband and I looked at each other and declared, "Nap!" Ahh. I changed out of my church clothes into my comfy sweats, and the minute–the MINUTE–I sat down on the edge of the bed I heard it. The moaning morphing into a wail. The sign that what should have been a 2 hour nap was only a thirty minute one. Aarrrggh!

    So I went into his room and sat with him in the rocking chair, hoping against hope that I could rock him back to sleep. I patted him, I sang to him. He snuggled into me. I peeked down to check his eyelids, to see if they were drooping. After a few minutes, it became apparent that he was NOT going to go back to sleep. But you know the funny thing? I didn't care, after all. He was still sleepy enough to snuggle, and I got to smell his hair and rub his back and he *let* me, with out complaining and trying to wriggle away (as 19 month olds are known to do). As much as I wanted to nap, my anxiety and negativity melted away in that moment, sitting in a rocking chair with my almost-not-so-little-anymore boy.

    Okay, so that was way too long for a comment. Sorry. And by the end of the night, I was hammered (the glow only lasts for a while). But it was nice while it lasted . . .

  2. The best advice I got at my baby showers was to forget the dishes and such and spend more time with my baby. Though I sometimes freak out over our messy house and feel inadequate that I'm not keeping it cleaner, I have really tried to make our baby a priority (I certainly enjoy him more than dishes, and the house is sometimes scary evidence of this choice).

    Last weekend we had a lot of extended family coming to stay with us and I was in charge of planning a huge luncheon (which I despise doing). I was pretty frantic the Sunday before, weepy, overwhelmed, stressed to the max. Besides the stress of planning something so big, I didn't want my cleaning and planning needs to make it a bad week for me and baby, nor did I want my family to think I'm a complete slob. Gratefully, my mil took our baby for a morning so I could get some of the harder stuff done. I did what I could off and on during the week. By Thursday I realized it really didn't matter all that much anyway. So the day they were all due, I let the floor and dishes stay dirty, and played with my son. I was much more happy and relaxed, much more able to enjoy the significance of the weekend.

    Oh . . . another thought. When our son's sleep is disrupted, I try to tell myself that it must be for a reason and will all work out in the wash. Having that belief helps me not get as frustrated. Usually it HAS been for a reason (gas, poop, whatever), and often he has slept better not too long afterwards, so I can catch up.

  3. Every night, as I walk down the hall to our bedroom, I pass a small wall filled with numerous plaster hand prints. Reminders of the tiny people who used to live with me, and who needed my constant attention.

    There are so many times I wish I could rewind the world and go back and do things better as a mom. But I am the gramma now. Kids are all grown and *less* needy; but I am finding opportunities still arise where someone still wants/need their mom. I live for these new opportunities.

    I have much more patience than I did when I was your age. I look at you younger moms and wonder how I did it, and marvel at how you all seem to do it with such aplomb! So I continue to learn and grow.

    The phone rings and I pack a bag with enough supplies for a few days and off I go, leaving Thor to handle the financial part of our partnership. I have learned to live on less so that I *can* leave and assist when the grown ups need me.

  4. No Angela, I love hearing the stories of other moms. It's awesome that you were able to accept the nap was gone and just enjoy. So often I just keep resenting the lost sleep and then it ruins the rest of my day. Ah, my new calling is on the enrichment committee. Our ward has never done a super Saturday, so hopefully I can avoid any lost craft debacles :-).

    Great advice Wendy. Usually there is a reason, "the best laid plans . . ." they often say. It's good to make decisions like you did, to choose to ignore the unimportant seemingly urgent things, that don't really matter that much.

    s'mee, what lucky kids to have a mom/grandma who can pack up and come to help when it's needed. My mom is the same way and as a "grown-up" now I try to make sure and enjoy it when I have her with me.

  5. I am the biggest stress case you will ever meet, but luckily I married a man who lives to play. It is sad that I can't see it on my own, but he constantly reminds me that being a mom is more important than ANYTHING. He makes me take time to relax and just play and talk with my girls.

    For example, here it is, 10pm and I am just starting laundry, which I have neglected for weeks. I can see I'll be up all night, but it's ok because child #3 (she's 14) just told me this was one of her best days ever because I didn't bug her about anything and I just hung out with all of them all day. Maybe I need to work on doing more of that….

  6. I have had so many days like this. It is so great when the spirit helps us put things in perspective. Your comments really struck home. I haven't heard that quote before but it has such meaning. As a mom of 5 kids, 4 of them boys, I have MANY crazy days. At the end of the day, when they are all asleep, I wish I had held them more, hugged them tighter and listened more intently. Thank you for your insight.

    By the way, I don't even know how I came across your blog, but I am going to have to add it to my list… I love it!

  7. Why is it so hard to slow down? It seems like when school is done for the day, homework has to be done, dinner put on the table, chores to supervise, church activities to go to and the moments just aren't there. And then at night, I'm too exhausted to do anything but sleep. Where do you carve out those moments?

  8. Still up doing laundry…I've just been thinking that when my girls were little I had to MAKE time for them. Amidst all the mom things I was responsible for. Now that they are teens I find I have to TAKE time. Little snippets of time, in the car, at the kitchen table, when they're getting makeup on….etc. Interesting how it all changes….

  9. This summer I have followed Elder Ballard's counsel to enjoy the good moments with my kids. We've had a great summer (I like Smee have to give thanks to the financial support in all of it, my DH). Now that they go back to school I'm scared of what the year will bring. These days are golden moments, when they want to be home with me tye dying or camping out in the backyard. Dances, dating and jobs are not too far away and I don't want to let any day slip through my fingers.

  10. Great post Heather. I love all the perspectives shared in the comments as well. This is timely for me as my oldest just left the nest for a mission and I've been trying not to have any regrets. I've tried to be aware of how precious time is the whole way through, but I think it's especially hard with the oldest because you're so excited about each new stage you're looking forward to. Then you get another kid (and more) and you're so busy. I tried to enjoy the simple things and let things go that were less important, but it still all passed so quickly.

    One of the best things I did though was right before Luke left I took three days off and I told him they were his. We got stuff done, but we also played and did whatever he wanted to do. I don't have any regrets about those three days.

  11. It's all about balance, isn't it? Finding joy in the doing of the daily stuff as well and making time to play and dance and camp and just be together. I just came home from taking my daughter to her first day of kindergarten and I had to walk out into the hall and cry. I am not scared for her or worried, I'm just sad . . .I think I'm going to miss her and it's only the beginning. Anyway . . .I do appreciate the comments. It's just good to take a minute and reflect and think and feel gratitude instead of stress.

  12. Heath- I love you for that blog! I am so trying to live in the moment. Please let's remind each other often how blessed we are. I am blessed to have a sister who can write things like I want to write things. Thank you for this special entry. I agree with everything you said and couldn't have said it better myself.

  13. heather
    i miss you and nyc!! this has been a very rattling week for me as a parent and this post (and subsequent comments) were so comforting to read. i'm so far from all my english speaking friends but the blog-o-sphere has really helped me sort out my parenting crises regardless of distance.

    i am caught up, like the rest of you, in this chaos of choice. me or them. really, that’s where the fissure is. all they want is me 100% and lately all i seem to want is me too — to myself. my crises is that it’s not working and i know i need to choose to operate more deliberately and less on auto-parent. all these other things (books, writing, research)are in a state of stasis they will linger&hover&last but my little 4 and 2yearold will not always approach me like they do now. i think we all acutely know this and so it makes the struggle much, much more agonizing. it’s not always easy to do what you know is best.

    thanks for your voices.

  14. Heather I loved this post. I have moments of panic where I think "I am doing something wrong, this isn't the kind of childhood I imagined my kids having." These moments usually come when everyone is crying, or chanting "your a mean mommy" (yes they actually chant this). It is good to be reminded that not every moment will be perfect but to notice the good moments and try to focus on them. Today it rained (ahh a miracle in vegas) and I stopped making dinner and dragged the kids out barefoot to play on the dirty asphalt. They were soaked and laughing and I tried to close my eyes and remember this moment for the next time things go south! your wonderful!

  15. Why am I laughing through blubbery tears and trying to compose myself enough to write? Because we are all here in the thick of it, aren't we? Each voice of a mother, some i know well and some i do not, strummed a chord so close to my core that I physically felt the vibration. These feelings are the essence of what we are… how interesting that when one dares to put them in print we all breath a heavy sigh of relief and think, "Oh, you too". Thanks for taking 3 days off, dragging your kids out in the rain, leaving the dishes, offering your lap, making plaster footprints, going to a midnight fun-run with your kids-(Lori),and soaking in the smell of your babie's velvet hair. I wish I could make a blue ribbon for each of you that stated in shiny, gold letters your success…"I didn't do the dishes, I played instead!" That makes me laugh aloud just thinking of the looks you'd get at the supermarket. Maybe other women would ask you where you got it and if you'd be willing to sell it. But, of course you wouldn't because it is going in your memory book as a reminder of the day you snagged a moment from the clutches of motherhood chaos and just lived in it.


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