By: Tanya Ward Goodman
My daughter is sitting on the sofa behind me while I write. She’s got a scratchy throat and a little fever and she doesn’t want to go to bed even though her eyes are heavy. Earlier, she fell asleep on my husband’s chest the way she used to when she was a baby. Just as he used to, he stayed perfectly still for nearly an hour and savored the sweet, solid warmth of her sleeping body.
She is not a baby anymore, but she is still a child. She is a little girl whose big ideas wear her out. So I am letting her keep me company while I write. I am listening to the sound of her breath and she is listening to the sound of my fingers rattle over the keyboard and we are taking some comfort from this shared quiet time.
Lately, I’ve been trying to work on my own projects while the kids are awake and around. I want them to see that I have things that I do that have little or nothing to do with them. I read the newspaper or a novel right there in broad daylight instead of saving it for later. When they ask if I will play legos or ponies or house, I say I will, but after I’ve finished whatever it is I’m doing.
My parents were always doing things. (Because it was the 70s, they were “doing their own thing.”) Art, music, writing, gardening, volunteering…you name it, they did it. And because they were doing things, I did things too. I remember with great fondness whole days I spent alone in my room drawing paper dolls or creating imaginary worlds for my stuffed animals. I read and read and read and later, I wrote stories and poems and long journal entries.
Of course my parents took time out from their “me-time” to have some family time and I never felt ignored, but I understood that everyone had their own project and that felt good.
When my kids were younger, I felt it was my job to turn away from my project to take part in theirs. They were little. They were learning. They needed me. But now, they need me a little less and I’d like them to find their own peace in their own projects. I can’t direct them to make paper dolls or build forts in the back yard, but I can make suggestions. I try to set an example. And if, while I am modeling a little “do your own thing”, a little boredom sets in, so much the better. Sometimes boredom is a stepping-stone to creativity.
So behind me my daughter may be bored right now, she may be impatient, but more likely; her brain is working to entertain itself — working on projects of her own.