My 14-year-old daughter comes through the door, drops her backpack, jogs up the stairs, and bursts into my office where I’m working to meet a deadline. No knock. No “excuse me.” She throws herself dramatically into the extra chair and starts chattering away about the physics test she thinks she did okay on and her plans for the weekend.
My fingers hover over the keyboard as my brain begs me to finish writing the paragraph I’m in the middle of writing. Instead, I scrunch my eyes closed, save my document, and turn to face my brimming over daughter. It’s a rare thing to have her interrupt me these days, so when she does, I know I’ve got to embrace it.
When my girls were little, I craved uninterrupted minutes of, well, anything: a few minutes to finish my coffee while it was still hot, 10 minutes on the phone with my best friend across the country, a measly minute and a half to pee alone behind a closed door, and if I was feeling lucky, another four minutes to shower without a red-faced toddler pressed up against the shower door staring at my hoo-ha and hollering for a snack.
Back then, I couldn’t get anything done let alone string together a coherent sentence without a child demanding my attention.
Being interrupted all the time was maddening. I longed for a few hours to do my own thing, stay grounded in a stream of unbroken thought, or finish a task from beginning to end. As soon as they could reasonably understand the concept, I coached my girls to wait, be patient, knock on a closed door, and say “excuse me” when I was busy or talking to another grown-up. They tried — really they did — but putting aside their immediate desires didn’t come naturally, even when it was developmentally appropriate.
Eventually, the girls got the message: Unless the house was on fire, someone had lost a limb, or a rabid elephant was heading our way, they shouldn’t interrupt willy-nilly. Over time, my girls became experts at not interrupting. It was only when they reached middle school that I noticed that it wasn’t just because they knew the drill; it was also because they didn’t need me as much.
At first, I was over the moon about this new reality. My kids were becoming independent. They could figure stuff out on their own without constantly needing me. I could actually get shit done! I upped my freelance game and made more time to exercise. I found a little freedom at the end of the motherhood rainbow.
But, like a lot of things in life, the grass is always greener on the other side. Now my kids are in school all day. They do sports and art and guitar lessons and youth group at all hours. They’re busy with homework, flitting off to be with friends, or socializing online. I get plenty of time to myself now, and while I appreciate it, I miss my girls. Bittersweet irony, I know.
I miss their singsong voices asking me to help them tie their shoes. I miss their snuggly warm bodies burrowing into my lap even as I tried to tap out one last text. I miss being sprawled out on the floor surrounded by infinite blocks and bobble-headed pink plastic ponies. I miss dipping apple slices in honey and cutting every dang crust off of endless cheese and butter sandwiches.
Everyone likes to remind parents that the days are long and the years are short, but damn if that isn’t the truth. Even more true is that now that my girls are into their adolescence, the years and the days are short. I’m not going to tell you to savor every moment of motherhood because that’s totally unrealistic. It’s pretty hard to appreciate that moment when your toddler vomits into your cupped hands while you’re waiting to check-out at Target. We all know motherhood is both awesome and awful.
What I will say is I want to embrace the interrupted moments that do still happen in my house. Soon enough, these girls of mine will be out of the house and on their way (shut up, because you’re gonna cry then too). Until then, they can feel free to please freakin’ interrupt me.