I’ve been refocusing my energies lately. As I have often said, being a mother is a practice of mind over matter. Each day contains joy, hilarity, challenges and frustration. How my girls and I fair through the day has more to do with my attitude than with any amount of challenges. So I’ve been refocusing my energies.
Instead of fixating on the things that need to be done; the things that I’m not doing (writing, cleaning, keeping up socially) I try to focus on what I am doing, what my four-year-old daughter wants to be doing, and wants me to be doing. I try to relax when I’m playing with her and not think as I’m playing: I should be…It’s amazing how five or ten minutes of real play time like that fills her pot quicker than an hour of half-focused attention.
They are still challenging, of course. Their needs are strong and different. Jada (almost nine months old, now) is demanding focused attention too. She desperately wants to be running and playing with big-sister Twila and needs all the more attention since her mobility is still limited to racing around on her hands and knees.
Twila turned four this past weekend. It was her first party with friends. Four girls came dressed as four different princesses. Twila was of course, Tiana, her favorite princess and mine since she is the first of Disney’s princesses to have some amount of strength and intellect, and goals other than marrying a prince. Not like Aurora who sleeps through her whole movie or Ariel who gets married at—sixteen, for heaven’s sake. How about a sequel where Arial travels abroad or goes to college? Princess and the Frog, it’s a good movie.
So Twila has this great, screaming, hectic party for two hours that felt like five. But she had a total blast. And Jada, more than three years younger, was fully engaged: screeching along with the girls, leaning off my mother’s lap as if she might just jump to her feet and join in the game of musical chairs.
By the time the piñata burst, Jada couldn’t take it anymore and wriggled to the floor crawling between the feet of the princesses and snatching up the crinkly plastic packages. It must be the second child phenomenon. Twila did not thrive on noise and social energy at this age. On the contrary she took refuge in my bosom any time we were out of our quiet, calm, element.
Twila’s only been four a few days, but already I can tell I like this age. There is a calm that has come over her. Well maybe calm is too extreme, but there is less of the frantic rage of three. Three was really tough for us. There was unparalleled defiance, temper tantrums, irrational anger, sadness, violence. I admit it caught us by surprise. Twila has always been so peaceful and compassionate; we just didn’t see it coming. Of course we did have a baby right in the middle of her three-year-old year, so that couldn’t have helped.
But the light at the end of the tunnel is increasing in size. In fact, I can see the sun and the clouds and the bright blue sky of four. She is funny and her compassion and sensitivity are fully intact again. She is helpful and kind. She makes Jada laugh and helps me get the diapers.
This morning I woke up to bright sun outside; orange leaves fluttering down in a light breeze. I snuck into Twila’s room to find her awake. After quickly pulling on sweatshirts over our jamies and shoes over our bare feet, Ryan, Twila and I slipped out the back door with the baby monitor and walked down to the dock, where we stood in the quiet of the morning, watching leaves float like dry paper down onto the glassy surface of the lake.
I may not be finishing pages of my novel at breakneck speed; I may not be turning out hit play after hit play. But my days spent with my girls—the days I really spend with them, not trying to do a million other things—fill my creativity pot full of material that will be used, slowly but surely and someday faster. And they fill my heart full of memories, of this time of parenting young girls, upon which I will spend the majority of my life looking back nostalgically.