“It is the guilt and disappointment of not being present for your kids, even though you are constantly around them - that’s what I was least prepared for.”
His eyes opened wide, his mouth quivered. He looked away, his head down.
His shoulders sagged and you could see the disappointment and fear course through his body as he turned away.
He went and sat still and silent at his desk chair. He is never still nor silent.
It was one simple question: “Mommy can you dance with me?”
But I had not answered. I had sighed angrily. And rolled my eyes in frustration. That was answer enough.
As he left, I put my head in my hands. Out of annoyance. Out of guilt. Out of sadness for me and sadness for him.
It wasn’t the first time he had interrupted me that day, or even that hour, or half-hour. It wouldn’t be the last.
I watched then as he sat through the entire song, tears in his eyes, still not moving. This was his remote school dance break. This was OUR dance break.
You see every morning he has a 2-3 minute dance break where they can dance along or stretch or simply watch. A break for the eyes and body and mind in front of a screen all day.
And every morning he asks me to dance with him.
He is one of the only kids that dances, and I most definitely am the only parent that dances with him - as the teacher has pointed out on more than one occasion. You see we even made up a routine. It’s our little time. I love his infectiously sweet, joyous spirit. And that day I silenced it without a single word.
And when I didn’t think I could feel more guilty, I then watched my son pick himself up and ask my husband to dance with him. Sure it was cute to see my husband try, but it stung so deeply.
I buried myself into my work because that day I simply had no other choice. It was one of those days. And later that afternoon when his little brother ran into the room to ask for me, my oldest stopped him, saying “mommy is too busy! She can’t play with us. Go ask Daddy.”
No matter how busy I am with work, I always make the time to dance with him (barring any conference calls). I feel lucky to be a part of his kindergarten school day, his first real year of school where I wouldn’t otherwise know what was happening. This isn’t how it’s supposed to happen for him, and I sure as hell want to help him smile along the way.
But it’s not supposed to be this way for me either. I’m not meant to work from home while trying to help him remote learn when he can barely navigate the computer, and while his 2-year old brother is vying for his and my attention. I love working from home, and I love my kids, but the combination is exhausting and challenging.
I can’t send one email without being interrupted to help him log back in because “something happened,” or he wants a snack, or he wants to show me his latest drawing, or he needs another piece of paper, or he can’t find his pencil that’s right in front of him. You name it, he asks it all day long.
But it’s not his fault. And he doesn’t understand my work and whether I’m busy or not. He sees me in the next room, and he just wants me near him, helping him or dancing with him. He wants me to experience this with him. And boy do I want to as well.
I don’t want to sigh in frustration. I don’t want him to feel that I don’t want to spend time with him. I sure as hell don’t want to be replaced during our dance break and I don’t want my children scared to come ask me questions. It’s hard to fight the frustration when you’re interrupted constantly.
But then I imagine his frustration. Being five, still learning how to read, let alone navigate a computer, and we let him sit there all day by himself figuring it out (one of us always in the room next door, but never right next to him). He has grown so independent and we are so proud, that we sometimes forget that he is still five. This is his first time in real school, let alone doing something brand new to all of us.
No one could have prepared for this.
Yet, it is the guilt and disappointment of not being present for your kids even though you are constantly around them- that’s what I was least prepared for.
Sure I’m so happy to have so much time with them during such a developmental age. But some days it’s hard to embrace the good when the stress squashes you like a elephant trampling you and everything you had planned for the day.
So what did I do? I took the opportunity when I was able to sit and talk with him about responsibility. About working hard. I took the time to play with him for a few minutes. I took the time to show him and tell him how proud of him I was for working so hard himself through this madness, because none of us were prepared for this.
So go ahead and cut yourself some slack. Cut your kids some slack. Despite seeing you all the time they very well might just want your attention. Or maybe they want you to dance with them.