My brand new steam mop was ready to go. I smiled, started my iTunes, and grabbed the handle, eager to try out my new toy.
(I know, I know. You’re rolling your eyes. But I like housework. Well, most of it.)
Have you ever used a steam mop? It’s kind of amazing. I could hardly believe how well it was cleaning my floors with no more than water. Elated, I stopped and snapped a quick pic to send to my parents, who had gifted me the mop for Christmas. “Thank you! I’ve never loved mopping so much!”
On I continued around the corner, singing along to the tune in my ears, when I noticed the mop was no longer working. Turning my head towards the electrical outlet, I spied the cause.
Henry was holding the cord, grinning at me.
“Henry, that’s not funny, bud! Let Mom finish.”
He giggled and replaced the cord. No less than a minute later, my mop stopped working again. I saw the same sly smile and pondered what to do.
Could he be trying to tell me something? Does he want me to play with him? Is he bothered by the sound of the mop or is he just being silly? Wait… regardless, he wants my attention, right?
See, I hear myself saying, “Just a minute, Henry,” an awful lot. I have to finish loading the dishwasher or flipping the laundry from washer to dryer or finish grading one more paper. And I hate that phrase, just a minute. I hate feeling as if I’m putting him off, when he’s really the most important piece of my world.
I wrestle with the fine line between assuring my child he is important to me and overindulging him. I want him to know when he calls my name, I’ll be there. I want him to know I value what is important to him. I want him to know he can call me from college at 2am because his heart is broken or he’s terrified he’s going to fail a test.
But I also want him to know that chores must be done. I want him to know the meaning of responsibility and that, in our family, we follow through with our commitments. We honor each other and treat each other with respect by carrying our weight.
With all those hopes, what’s a mom like me to do when her son unplugs the mop?
Sometimes, she asks her son not to do that again and to please play until she’s done. Sometimes, she gets frustrated because she’s in a mad dash to clean the house before company arrives.
Other times, she postpones mopping to another day. She chooses quality time over cleaning time. She knows if she says no too many times, she won’t be asked again. She remembers this life is but a breath. We mamas have a unique capacity to see both backward and forward. We see the baby that was and the adult that will be, and we soak up every moment in between.
I don’t even remember what we did together after that. Maybe we played a game or maybe we put together some train tracks. Maybe we went outside. All I know is I made a choice in that moment to trust my instincts. I thought Henry needed me that afternoon, and I wasn’t up against a deadline to finish the floors anyway.
The fancy new mop and iTunes could wait.
This article originally appeared MeredithMDangel.com.