The summer solstice always gets me thinking about time.
I suppose it’s natural, since the sun will hover longest on the horizon on this day, offering the sense that time actually is stretched beyond its normal limits. The day is finally as big as I want it to be, the hours spilling over with sunshine and possibilities.
I was especially absorbed with this summer’s solstice since it coincided with my daughter’s 4-month birthday. As a brand new parent, over the last four months I seem to have developed an even more dysfunctional relationship with time than usual.
Every morning upon waking I create a mental list. My “I Will” list. “Today I will brush the dog. I will bake muffins. I will bathe the baby. I will get some work done. I will exercise. I will vacuum. I will call my mother.” And at around noon, I have located the dog brush in the garage, put two sticks of butter on the counter, turned on my computer, and thought about going for a walk.
At 3 p.m. I plug in the vacuum.
At 6 p.m. I pick up the phone, but I hear some tummy rumblings from Elodie’s direction and I’m off to the changing table before I finish dialing.
Around bedtime, I notice the vacuum is blocking the hallway so I put it back in the closet, unused. The dog is still not brushed and asleep in his fur-lined bed. I turn off the computer, saving the three sentences I managed to write. (It’s slow going when you only have one hand to type with, since the other hand is either 1. Removing things from baby’s mouth, i.e. newspaper, or 2. Putting things in baby’s mouth, i.e. pacifier.
After lathering Elle in lotion and buttoning her pajamas, I remember I was going to give her a bath. Then I remember reading somewhere that new babies don’t need more than one or two baths a week. So, we’re good for another day or two … aren’t we?
I tuck her into bed and warily climb the stairs to turn off the lights. “Why is there butter on the counter?” I wonder, putting the sticks back in the fridge. I look at my cell phone for the first time of the day, and notice my mom’s number as the last missed call. Gotta call her, but it’ll have to wait until tomorrow.
This whole never-getting-anything-accomplished part of motherhood is a hard adjustment for us Type A, mental list-makers. I got a call from my friend Kalee this week, whose son Derek is four months older than Elle. She is trying to sell her house in Evergreen, and claims that her day revolves around following her son through the house with a roll of paper towels and a spray bottle, trying in vain to keep pudgy little fingerprints off all the windows.
I tell her my windows haven’t seen a shot of Windex in at least three months. “Yeah, well, get used to never getting anything done … wait ’til she starts crawling!”
Our conversation ended shortly thereafter, with Derek bonking his head and me attempting to say goodbye between bursts of background sobbing. Ah, motherhood.
The trick to accomplishing any task, veteran moms tell me, is to be an industrious exploiter of naptime. The kid’s eyelids closing is akin to the starting gun blasting off, setting into motion whatever seemingly necessary but heretofore neglected chore that sits atop the To-Do list. I genuinely try to live by the action-in-naptime tenet, hurtling into the race like the vacuum-pushing, clothes-folding, telephone call-making yogini I imagine myself to be. More often my actions are closer to those of a headless chicken clucking around the house, pecking at this project and that project but never actually completing a single one.
With the longest days of the year upon us, I had naively believed that I would actually get a handle on managing my time as a mother. The longer days would allow me not only to accomplish the basic daily challenges of loading the laundry machine, unloading the dishwasher, brushing the dog, and bathing the baby, but perhaps I would also get to those items further down the list – like planting flowers in our neglected garden, or finally getting to that as-yet-untouched baby book.
Yet at the end of these long summer days, in those brief minutes between my head hitting the pillow and falling dead asleep, I assess my accomplishments of the day as a new mother and realize that I didn’t get to even a quarter of what had been on my “I Will” list that morning. Which always begs the question: What did I do today?
Elle and I sat in the rocker on the porch this morning, listening to the creek. We watched a hummingbird buzz by the feeder, and she touched the leaves of our tomato plant.
We walked down the path in the woods this afternoon, where we actually did stop to smell the roses. Their blushing pink buds had just bloomed and exuded a deliciously sweet perfume. We found a snowy white spider on one of the flowers, which led us to sing song “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
We talked about what thunder is when a low rumbling sent us back in the house. That was after our discussion about the verb to sprinkle, which I explained could be used when talking about rain – which we were, since it was – or the kind of sprinkling you do when you decorate cupcakes – which we haven’t yet done, but I promised we would, she just has to grow some teeth first.
This evening, Craig and I laughed at Elodie the Super Baby, who loves to fly through the air with long strings of drool swinging in the breeze.
And just before I closed my eyes tonight, she curled her little fingers around my finger and breathed a big tired baby sigh. I knew that I would wake up tomorrow with just as many things on my “I Will” list as were on there today. But everything on my “I Must” list had been accomplished. I was a mom all day today, and I could look forward to another long summer day of being Mom tomorrow.