In addition to my annual list of resolutions, I like to choose a word to dwell on throughout the year. Last year I prayed that I would make myself vulnerable to a deep, fervent hope; this year I’m looking outward a little more, feeling called to be more fully present for the people in my life. I’ve mentioned before how easily I can get sucked into my task list vortex, where the measure of a good day is based more on productivity than on quality time with friends or family. The arrival of Juliette has clearly brought to light the necessity of recalibrating my priorities, putting my nearest and dearest above my to-do’s. That baby of ours needs (and deserves) all kinds of attention. And while she’s not shy about letting me know when she’s hungry or poopy or just wants to be held, what about those other times, when she’s sweetly content to just lay on the floor and suck on her fingers? Is that my cue to rush downstairs to throw in a load of laundry, then hustle around the kitchen to get dinner ready? Or is it my cue to pause, to throw a couple of pillows down and lay right next to her, to chat with her and tickle her toes while she coos and babbles? Some mornings, when she’s especially easy-going, I find myself just shuffling her from room to room as I go about my own routine, propping her up in her chair in the bathroom while I blow-dry my hair, dropping her in her bouncer in the kitchen while I unload the dishwasher and make breakfast, putting her down on her playmat while I eat and check email. Before I know it, it’s time for her first nap and I’ve entirely missed my morning window for snuggle sessions and playtime.
I threw out the sleep training guidelines the other day and let Juliette nap in my arms after she nursed. As I laid my hand on her belly and gazed at her peaceful face, rosy-cheeked where she had been nuzzled in the crook of my arm, she grabbed my finger in her chubby little fist and gripped it tight as she slept. It felt like she was asking me to stay awhile, reminding me that our quiet moments together are precious and so quickly fleeting. And the time I spend with her, singing silly songs and smothering her with head-to-toe kisses, it matters. It matters that I’m present for her. It matters that she knows she’s more important than housework or blog posts or emails. It matters that I daily speak words of affirmation and positivity over her. And when she responds to my undivided attention with a happy giggle or an extra-close cuddle, it’s apparent how much those dirty dishes in the sink and those crumbs on the floor really don’t matter.
So I’m being more there for Juliette and she’s flashing me her winning smiles and I’m making good progress on this resolution, but I fear there’s another member of our family that’s a little short on lovin’. Remember Shane, who used to stand front and center in my weekend updates and my travel posts, who used to by the object of all my gushing? There was a time when I couldn’t wait to get home to him after a long day at work, to enjoy one of his extra-special bear hugs and dish on the day’s ups and downs. Don’t get me wrong – I still can’t wait to see him in the evenings (my daily 5:00 “when r u coming home?” text message is evidence of that), but it’s usually so that I can toss the baby in his direction and enjoy a little space to myself, because I am beat. I’ll take a breather and watch from the sidelines while the two of them play, then summon the last of my reserves for bathtime, bedtime, and dinnertime. By 8:00, I am physically and emotionally zapped, wanting nothing more than to zone out in my own corner of the couch with my laptop or my knitting while Shane queues up House of Cards. It’s hardly what you would call “quality time” for the two of us. So I’m working on digging deeper, asking real questions rather than muttering an obligatory “How was your day?”. I’m taking him up on his offer when he pushes himself against the back of the couch so that I can stretch out alongside him while we talk or read or watch Parenthood. I’m reminding myself that although it takes effort, although it goes against my natural inclination to hole up and turn in, the restorative power of intimacy ultimately lands us in a much happier place.
These two have brought me such great, heaping boatloads of joy. May I be a wife and mom that daily returns the favor.