Last week, I was given a rare opportunity to drive alone. Yes, alone. I could hardly wait. I only had to pick up dinner and stop by the post office, but it would be a half hour to treasure.
But as I opened the car door, I heard the front door to the house open, too. “Mommy, where are you going?” my five year old asked.
“Just to pick up dinner,” I called back.
“Oh, is it quick?”
“Yes,” I reassured him, assuming he just wanted to make certain I wouldn’t be gone long.
“Oh, good,” he answered. “Can I come, too, then?”
Oops. Question misunderstood. So, he’d been hoping to come, and was merely ensuring I wouldn’t be dragging him on an endless run of errands. I hesitated. This was the only “me time” I’d had in the past week. My quiet-in-the-car, no-kids, “me time”. As with most moms, I sorely needed it. I only have two children, but one of those is a ten-month old who’s still pretty much glued to my body. Though I love her immensely, I looked forward to just a few stolen moments alone. Just a little quiet time to recharge. After all, during His ministry, even Jesus sought a little time apart from the crowds (Mt 14:13).
But, how could I look at my son and tell him no, that I didn’t want him to come along? He looked so hopeful on the front step, cradling his shoes in his little hands. And, though seeking a little alone time, wasn’t Jesus still interrupted in order to care for others? And didn’t He oblige? (Mt 14:14)
“Sure,” I answered, “Go tell Daddy you’re coming with me.”
“Goody!” he yelled gleefully.
I was happy for him, but what had I just done? Why can’t I ever just allow myself some time alone? As a stay-at-home mom, I parent 24-7. With a husband who’s at work from before the sun rises until about an hour before the kids’ bedtime, I parent alone for much of the day. I should have suffered no guilt for giving myself a half hour of silence.
Instead, here I was, no longer alone but with a little boy in tow. And that little boy was anything but quiet. He was in a questioning mood. A talking mood. And without his little sister babbling, squealing or crying away in the seat next to him, I understood why he was so giddy and chatty.
Because, for him, this wasn’t “me time”, it was “you and me time”. For him, it was a quiet car ride where the only noise was of a conversation between himself and the mom who is always so busy with another, needier child. For him, these were moments when he had no one to be second to, no one to talk over, no one to compete with for Mom’s attention.
And he soaked up these moments. He chatted about things we’d never talked about before. Nothing substantial, just little talks about why it’s good to get a low score in golf (a question that arose as we passed a golf course), or what type of swing set Daddy should build in the backyard (a thought that occurred as we passed a yard with a really great swing set), or musings on what exactly God does in heaven all day (prompted by my remark on the beauty of the sun rays streaming through the clouds).
Seconds into the drive, I was glad I wasn’t alone. Because though I hadn’t realized it, I needed this time, too. I needed to reconnect with my son who’s always such a great helper with his baby sister, but who doesn’t get much time alone with me anymore. I needed to return, even for a few moments, to the days when it was just the two of us for much of the day. Because he’s getting older and slipping a little further away from me every day, and these uninterrupted minutes together are growing rarer.
Because motherhood, I’ve learned this past year, is such a delicate balancing act. We juggle everything from time with our husband, to time with each child, to time tending to friends and relatives. We balance schedules and checkbooks and appointments and meals. And in this daily juggling act, we risk making our loved ones feel less set apart as someone truly special to us and more like an item to be taken care of on our checklist.
Or, worse, a hindrance to our “me time”.
My son and I needed our simple half hour together. Though it was nothing exciting, we had fun buying stamps, mailing letters, and waiting for our order to come up at the pizza place. In these moments, we were blessed with something we both desperately needed. Not “me time”. It was something better. It was “you and me” time.