“Mommy will you please play with me?”
I hope you didn’t notice the way I cringed when you said those words.
Because I did cringe. And I started to slowly back towards the house, hoping you’d get distracted by your older brother or the slide on the play gym or the Tonka trucks scattered around the yard.
But you didn’t get distracted. Instead, you asked me a second time: “Mommy will you please play with me?”
But sweet child of mine, didn’t you know? Didn’t you know that I had plans for that precious half hour or so of afternoon peace I hoped to find in the house while you played outside?
Didn’t you know that your newborn brother was sleeping – actually SLEEPING – upstairs in his CRIB instead of on my chest? Didn’t you know that the dryer had just beeped and that I was planning to fold and put away the laundry during those few moments of silence?
Didn’t you know it was 4:30 and I wanted to prep dinner while you played, so that our meal would actually be ready on time tonight and I wouldn’t have to cook with low-blood-sugar-crabby toddlers and a newborn pounding my chest for his dinner?
Didn’t you know that I had so many important things to scurry around the house and do during those few moments before the sun decided the afternoon was over and my evening chores begun?
No. You didn’t know any of those things. All you knew was the warm Autumn sun and a gorgeous blue sky and a gentle breeze in your backyard. All you saw was your Mama tying your shoe. All you wanted was someone to throw that little ball with you.
And so you didn’t let me off the hook. You kept asking me your question, looking up at me with those big blue eyes.
Those eyes that nobody can resist – least of all your own Mama.
And so I left my freshly brewed cup of coffee sitting inside on the kitchen counter. I resigned the laundry and the dinner prep to another time, and I leaned towards you to accept the little inflatable ball your chubby dimpled hands were holding ready for mine.
And we played.
Yes, you and I, we played. We threw that little ball back and forth and back again. And you laughed. You squealed and giggled and threw both of your Bubba arms up in the air to exclaim “GOOD JOB MOMMY!” at my pathetic excuse of a throwing arm. At one point you even clapped your hands and said “AWESOME!!”
I didn’t even know you knew that word already.
Your older brother noticed the fun. He left his Tonka trucks
pile of dirt construction site and came running over to join us. And then the neighbor girl – the only child next door whose full time nanny says stands at the back door waiting for you and your brother to come outside to play – yes she came to play too, running across her yard towards our fence.
And we all played with that little ball – back and forth and back again.
And we laughed hard and laughed long.
That night, the clean laundry stayed cold and wrinkled in the dryer all night long. Dinner was at least 45 minutes late, and yes – all of you boys were cranky while I prepared it. And the house didn’t get picked up and the coffee that gets me through the late hours didn’t get drunk.
But thanks to you, sweet child of mine, I went to bed without a trace of mommy guilt. Because you had asked me to play, and in the end I had said yes.
Your little 21-month-old mind probably won’t remember this day. You have too many days left in your future to hold this one close and tight.
But your Mama, she’ll remember it.
And one day in the future when all she has is laundry to fold and dinner to cook in her quiet, toddler-free house, she’ll hold on to the memory of balls thrown and caught and little ones laughing.
My little Luke: sometimes your Mama isn’t brave enough to choose the better part. Sometimes she gets caught up in the mundane. She becomes frantic over the to-do lists that threaten to engulf her. And she forgets the important things, like throwing balls and giving high-fives and running in grass with little feet pounding next to her.
Thank you for helping her to remember.
Thank you for asking me to play with you.