We had just finished making brownies, and I went to sit down and nurse Winnie. Charlotte was licking the bowl and spatula clean, and I told her she needed to wash off her face and hands before joining us on the couch (like she often does). I was in a nursing haze, and Winnie had dozed back to sleep, when I realized that Charlotte was playing in the sink. I watched from the living room. She was pouring water into a jar, squeezing soap into the jar, screwing on a lid, and shaking it. She repeated the sequence over and over. Every ounce of her attention was poured into her activity. I thought about the dirty dishes that were being used, the soap and water that was being wasted, and the fact that there were probably knives in the sink. I thought about telling her to stop many times. I did tell her to turn the water off. At one point, she spilled a bunch of water on the counter and got a towel to clean it up. I realized I was perfectly content sitting and watching her in this short moment between nursing a baby and waiting for the brownies to be done.
I recently had a conversation with my sister where I told her that I was getting antsy for some structure. It’s been six weeks since Winnie was born, and not only was I feeling that Charlotte deserved the predictability of structure, but I was feeling lazy and directionless. I wanted to feel like I accomplished more in my day than laundry and dishes (which honestly feels like a decent enough accomplishment, particularly if the folded laundry gets put away). We have been busy, but other than the babysitting I do, there is no routine to all the activity. The nights roll into days that roll into nights. As I sat there on the couch, I was annoyed with my need to move quickly through this prolonged moment of adding a new baby into our family. Like childhood, so often the experiences that shape motherhood are often seen as unnecessary and unproductive, a means to an end. As a country with no maternity leave policy this is ever so clear. Mothers, after having their babies, are often forced directly back into the workforce so they can pull their own weight while their bodies and minds are still reeling from the experience of childbirth. Babies, after having to let go of their mothers so quickly, are being told their chosen, self-directed play experiences are not enough in favor of instruction that is said to ensure their readiness for future success. The message is that who you are now is not as important as who you will be.
I am fortunate to have this time now to pay attention, even though it has meant letting go of the who-I-will-be that I was working towards. I’m thankful Charlotte has this time to follow her whims, to feel the silkiness of the water, the slipperiness of the soap, the scratchiness of the sponge, to practice pouring, and to observe the cause and effect that shaking has on bubbles. It’s only a matter of days before we have to be on a schedule for the summer, and I know the moment that happens, I’ll be wishing we could have just a few days to sit around at home doing nothing. After all, I am not ready to have to fight for time to get lost in the coos and the cuddles of the cutest baby in the ATL.