The mess I see is just a new game waiting to happen, in the eyes of my child. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Sarah Simpson Column: Haunted by the never-ending to-do list

“I just need to…”

I find myself saying that a lot to my children when they want my attention. The conversation usually goes something like this: “Mom, can you play with me?”

“Yep, I just need to vacuum up the crumbs under your sister’s chair then I can sit down with you.”

“Mom, are you almost done?”

“Yep, I just need to put the vacuum away and move the laundry over to the drier!”

“MOM? Where did you go? Why are you taking so long?”

“I’m sorry pal, I tripped over your shoes putting the vacuum away so I just needed to put them on the shoe rack and then I went to move the laundry over and noticed the coats weren’t hung up so I just needed to do that, then I saw the counter was dusty from the coats so I just needed to wipe that down after I hung up the coats…” and so on.

I just need to. Those words are starting to haunt me.

I just need to make a cup of tea before I can sit. I just need to plug my phone in to make sure it’s charged. I just need to make sure the counters are clean…. Then when I finally sit down to play it seems I just need to get up to make sure the toys that we aren’t playing with are put away first. Then when I’m playing, I just need to also be thinking about the groceries we need and/or what time to start dinner and/or how to juggle the appointments we have at the end of next week.

I suppose I technically I don’t need to do any of those things. Life would go on if the shoes overtook the entryway or the coats stayed on the counter instead of on hangers. The kids don’t notice the fine layer of dust that accumulates on our dark furniture despite how often I wipe it down. (That’s actually not true. They love to tell me when the summer sun shines through the window and they can see it ‘snowing’ in the air.) They don’t notice if their beds end up unmade.

My children WILL notice when I build a trap door into their Lego structure, they will notice when I help them craft the perfect Ninja Warrior course out of pillows, cushions and chairs. They’ll notice when we postpone bedtime to go for a family walk after dark just so we can break out the flashlights.

Being a parent is a continuous struggle between living in the moment and planning ahead. I can’t make myself say it’s a balance because it’s never really truly balanced. I feel like anyone who says otherwise is lying.

What I just need to do is to practice slowing down and enjoying the moments I’ve got with my children. I need to practice doing one thing at a time and being all right with not multi-tasking all day, every day. Easier said than done, I know. It used to be a marketable trait to be able to multi-task. Now it seems being able to focus on one thing at a time is a rare and sought after skill. I’d like to learn how to do that better. I just need my kids to teach me how.

I need to sit down and build the tower and then rebuild it when somebody accidentally (or intentionally, depending on the day) knocks it over.

I need to watch Paw Patrol and speculate with my kids about why Adventure Bay is ostensibly being run by a 10-year-old and his talking dogs.

I need to have the picnic in the middle of the living room with the stuffies and the plastic food.

I need to overlook the egg dripping down the face of my lower cabinets and onto the pile of flour on the floor and just make the cookies.

Those are the things they’ll remember — the times their mom was present. There’ll be plenty of time when they’re teenagers to make sure they notice how tidy I keep the house. What’s more, there’ll be plenty of time for me to clean the house when they move out. When that happens I’ll, no doubt, be thinking that I should have just needed to do less back when they were little and instead opted to do more with my kids.

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