Setting: Me at the computer, Sunday afternoon. Scott is gone for the afternoon, taking care of some family business, and the kids are playing "Star Wars" in the family room--building intricate block structures for L.'s Star Wars action figures to inhabit. I'm attempting to seize a sliver of time to get some work done at the computer--desperate to do so because I don't want to spend my Sunday night working. L., who has spent the last twenty minutes delivering a monologue to T. on the ins and outs of the different clone troopers walks into the office.
"Why don't you spend a little less time on the computer and a little more time playing with your children?"
I find as I'm getting older I'm getting more and more resentful of NOT being able to get work done at home. When the kids were smaller I felt extreme surges of guilt each time I wasn't doing something with the kids, reading to them, rigging up some gigantic tent in the living room out of sheets and blankets, stimulating their young minds. But now that they are nine and five I find myself expecting them to do more together--or at least expecting them to rely less on me to set up their games and entertainment. Is this unreasonable?
Still, the Mama Guilt hit hard. They are, after all, just kids still and at times like that I can almost close my eyes and see the years vanishing like they'd been swept away by a giant fist, see myself looking at grown-up kids and wishing myself back to that muggy Sunday afternoon, when my kids were small, and bouncy, and clamored for me. I find I'm constantly doing this--looking back on the here and now through the eyes of some Future Me, gauging how well I handled things, imaging the regret, or the pang of longing I might feel because I let a moment pass unnoticed, let it slip carelessly away.
I closed the laptop and the kids and I set up a Star Wars party, complete with paper plates left over from L.'s birthday, and frozen pizza and--gasp!--the forbidden fruit: lemon/lime soda. I even let them eat it in the family room, and on the floor, while the soundtrack to the Star Wars saga boomed out of the record player. They could easily have played without me, I know this, and been perfectly content. The Mama Guilt is more about me, I'm realizing, and less about them; more about that Future Me I worry so much about, the one standing with eyes shaded, looking back on the uncurling ribbon of years.