The Rockwood Files: Slowing down for summer

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

When I flipped the page on my calendar this morning, it hit me. In 30 lightning-fast days, the year will be halfway over. Halfway. Over. All this time, I’ve been thinking of 2010 as “the New Year.” But somewhere between January 1st and today, the new wore off and time sped up. I think I may have motion sickness.

My kids, on the other hand, couldn’t be happier about June’s arrival. My second-grader and kindergartner have spent weeks counting down to the last day of school, urging it to come sooner. For the boys and their 3-year-old sister, June means swimming pools and snow cones. Sprinklers and summer camps. For me, the halfway mark reminds me of all the things I should have gotten done by now. I feel like the year is racing out ahead of me and I’m hanging onto its tail, digging my heels in the ground and trying desperately to slow it down a little.

Will my whole life feel like this? A futile game of catch-up?

I hope not. It’s exhausting.

I wonder, though, how much of this frantic race around the hamster wheel is my own doing. As soon as I make measurable progress on a week’s “to do” list, I inevitably fill it right back up again with more things that should be done. Must be done. I’ve never once marked through the last item on a list and then sat back and said, “Whew! Glad that’s done. Think I’ll go take a nap now.” That never, ever happens.

So it makes me wonder if I’m taking care of the business that naturally comes my way, or am I subconsciously filling my life with busy work and then griping about the lack of time to get it all done? I don’t know. I really don’t. Maybe it’s both.

What I do know is that my kids are changing even faster than the pages on my calendar, and it scares me. The baby boy that used to fit perfectly in the crook of my arm eight years ago has slept-walked into my bedroom tonight where he is splayed out on my side of the bed. When I turn off my computer later and go to bed, I’ll pick him up and take him back to his own room, struggling to make it down the hallway carrying that 56-pound mass of gangly arms, legs and elbows.

I’ll tell myself I should wake him up, put him down and have him walk back to his own room so I won’t hurt my back during the transport. But I won’t do it – partly because I can’t bear to wake him up but mostly because it would mean he’s officially too big to carry. And I want him to be my baby a little while longer. At least for tonight.

What scares me more than the kids’ warp speed childhoods is that sometimes I’m too busy to be bothered. If I counted up the number of times I’ve been too busy to do something – play a game, go bike riding, make snow cones – I know I wouldn’t like the number I’d come up with. But I justify it by telling myself I’m “getting things done.” That deep-seated Puritanical work ethic compels me to keep whittling away at that list because it is good and noble to be productive. To get things done. To make hay while the sun shines. Right?

But while the to-do list gets smaller, the kids are getting bigger. And my gut knows that when the kids look back on these times, they won’t care how much time I spent “doing something.” They’ll care more about the times I spent with them doing nothing – just hanging out, just playing, just “being.”

I hope I can be more of a human “being” this summer and less of a maternal “doing” machine. When the kids ask me to play hopscotch on the driveway, I hope I’ll remind myself that, in a few years when they’re officially too cool for me, they won’t ask anymore. That precious window of opportunity wrockwoodheadshot2010compressed.jpgill have skipped right by, which is why it’s so important to jump on it now – to make “play” while the sun shines.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.