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Published October 21, 2013, 04:08 PM

Parenting Perspectives: The quest for a moment’s time in parenting

I assumed the brown box sitting on the front steps was for one of the kids. I hadn’t ordered anything recently. “It’s yours, Mom,” said the first one out of the van.

By: Roxane B. Salonen, INFORUM

I assumed the brown box sitting on the front steps was for one of the kids. I hadn’t ordered anything recently.

“It’s yours, Mom,” said the first one out of the van.

The label revealed the giver to be a friend who enjoys surprising.

Exhausted from my week of running the kids around, I approached the mystery with glad anticipation. What could it be?

As everyone settled into the after-school routine, I sneaked into my bedroom, where I planned to savor the gift in solitude.

“Mom, remember you said you’d take me to …” As his teenage voice descended from the top of the stairs, my serenity vanished.

Fiddlesticks. “Yep, let’s go.”

I grabbed the package, knowing there’d be down time in the van while waiting for him to do his errand.

As I parked and he walked away, I reached again for the package. Struggling a bit with thick plastic bands, I finally freed the box. “Now let’s see…”

But the sound of my cellphone stopped my tape-confounded fingers in their tracks.

“Hey, what’s up?” I asked my daughter.

“Mom, can we …”

By the time we’d disconnected, my son had returned, so I placed the unopened box on the floor, sighing in resignation.

Just days before, some friends and I had been lamenting how after all our years of parenting we still consider long showers, uninterrupted bathroom time and relaxed meals luxuries.

A decade earlier, our commiseration also had included diaper-changing and face-wiping. Now, it had turned to how many trips we’d made across town for our kids’ sakes.

Alone time for a parent is sacred and rare, and yet we wouldn’t change a thing. In all its messiness, uncertainty and sacrifice, this lifetime task of nurturing miniature human beings to maturity is hard to beat.

Indeed, for every tale of woe we’ve shared, we’ve exchanged twice as many of our sheer delight in watching these unrepeatable lives unfolding from front-row seats.

A recent cover article in Time magazine got me thinking even more about the blessings and burdens of children. “The Childfree Life” explores and extols the luxury of childlessness and how more Americans are choosing a kid-free existence.

I tried keeping an open mind, realizing there are all sorts of situations. “Yes, I can see that,” I thought, recognizing the yearning for more freedom.

I also know not every woman experiences the degree of maternal drive my sister and I first felt all those years ago while mothering our dolls in anticipation of the real thing.

But the article felt lacking somehow, maybe because I know too many women who’ve experienced infertility and, not by choice, faced the profundity of motherhood from a heart-wrenching perspective.

Many of the article’s quoted sources explained their choice as an act of defiance from living in a baby-obsessed culture. I won’t argue we can be ridiculously baby-obsessed. Much of the marketing to that end leaves me cringing, too.

But this is where the resonance ends. In hearing the cheers of childlessness, I can’t help but wonder why being kid-focused could be a negative. Our procreative capacity makes the world go round. Oppressing our embrace of something so natural and vital doesn't seem right.

I’m back in my bedroom now, ready at last to rip into the box that has been so elusive.

Inside, I find an assortment of adorable, yummy-looking Halloween cookies. “The perfect pick-me-up,” I think.

But before peeling away the plastic wrap from the little, edible ghost with shiny black, frosted eyes, I pause. Almost on instinct, I’m yelling now to the crew upstairs. “Who wants a cookie?”

Hearing the instant thundering of footsteps down the stairs, I smile.

Ironic, I realize, that in this moment I’d claimed for my own I can think of no better way to enjoy my gift than with them – the ones who bring so many frustrated interruptions and, yes, so much unparalleled joy into my life.

Roxane B. Salonen works as a freelance writer and children’s author in Fargo, where she and her husband, Troy, parent five children. She blogs on family life at http://peacegardenmama.areavoices.com

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