Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Pumping, Swinging, and Feeling Proud in the Slow Lane
It takes him a few long, slow minutes to get started. He leans way back to use all of his five year old pounds to pull the swing back and sticks his legs out straight in front of him. Then he lurches forward and tucks his legs under him quickly, throwing those same pounds in the opposite direction. He uses his muscles to pull the strings of the swing back, and then pushes them forward in the hopes of quickening the flight upwards. Ben does this again and again, and earns another inch or two back, another inch or two forwards with each pump. Pretty soon he's gained momentum, and the bangs that need a trim (but about which I don't really care) flutter up as he flies forward.
In another minute, he's reached maximum height. He likes to swing with his back to the yard because then his sneakered toes are pointed to the woods, and specifically towards the big elm with branches just low enough that he can touch them when he gets high enough, branches just high enough to make touching them a significant feat. He grins and shouts out, "Look! I did it, Mom! I touched the leaves!" He is so proud of himself.
I watch Ben from our deck. He's over by our playlet (itself a multi-tasking version of the swing set from my youth) and is having a grand old time by himself. I know he'd be happy to have company. Sometimes Charlie, the equally sporty eight year old neighbor wanders over to our yard. Ben is enamored with Charlie and, despite the three year age difference, Charlie is kind to Ben and their friendship is a sweet thing to witness. While they usually become blurs together in one sport or another, recently they've started to swing together--Ben on the swing, and Charlie standing on the tire swing or on the wooden horse, his big knobby knees sticking over awkwardly. But neither boy notices; they are each too busy grinning at each other, enjoying the breeze on their bangs, and trying to touch the trees.
Anyway, I'm over here because it's closer to our house, closer to my kitchen, closer to my to-do list. With each minute, I'm trying to earn my inevitable, cliche glass of wine at the end of the day, which I clutch happily (alright, that happiness is certainly suspect) as I lean back and sigh, feeling proud of myself for all that I've accomplished during my day.
Like any mom, and like any good American, I feel proud when I'm able to squeeze so much from the 24 hours I'm given. It's a good day when I brag to my Facebook friends that I drafted an essay, finished packing my kids' wholesome lunches, planned part of the next birthday party, and cleaned up the kitchen--all before the rest of my family wakes up. I feel proud when I manage my time down to the last second, getting from my Crossfit workout to the post office, from a meeting to carpool without being late for anything. The fact that I'm using Siri to safely (alright, that safety is certainly suspect) dictate and send emails and texts between these places only makes me that much prouder.
Watching Ben's proud, happy grin over there on the far side of the yard gives me pause. He feels proud and happy with so little; why does it take me so much to make me proud of myself? Why on earth do I need a laundry list of items--that always does include laundry, of course--to make me feel like I've earned the right to pause and treat myself, maybe ask for a turn on that swing myself?
These questions made me change how I spent the rest of my day. After Ben went to school and I ran a few errands while my younger son Kiefer was with my sitter, I sat with my little guy on our front porch and read bright, funny picture books on a bright, sunny day. We giggled at Mr. Magee's attempt to go camping--the bear gets his bag of marshmallows, but Kiefer and I tried to grab them from the illustration, each of us trying to get more than the other. We read the book three times, and I didn't try to convince him that another book might be a better choice. After lunch, he spotted a new bar of soap on the counter and asked if he could take a bath--right smack dab in the middle of the day--to try it out. Why not? Five minutes later his chubby naked body was slightly less dirty, and his the giggles continued as the bar of soap kept slipping out of his hands, hiding beneath the surface of the water from him.
Now, hours later after these two incidences, with that cliche glass of wine near my laptop, I feel proud of myself. Proud of pausing. Proud of resisting. Proud of pumping my lungs full of giggles and grins, proud of stopping to watch my son swinging lazily on a warm Spring day, proud of the other little moments that stand out amidst the regular dose of regular moments.