Mommy, you done with your work?
I stop, flinch a little at the interruption in my editing process, losing that fine turn of phrase that had formed right before my son asked his question. I look at him from behind my laptop screen.
You done with your work? You come play with me now? And he gestures to the playroom. You play with me?
I glance towards the kitchen, where his father makes dinner. I look at the TV, which he was so happily watching at first. Hook. The irony is not lost on me.
I close my laptop. I pull him into a hug and remember what I told him this morning.
Katy will pick you up from school today so you can go play.
No, Mommy. You pick me up. We go play.
I need to do my work. If you play with Katy after school, then Mommy won’t have to work when you’re home.
And so he got out of the car happy, played beautifully with his nanny Katy, and came bounding into my arms as soon as he came home.
I had set up the expectation that if he followed the plan, I wouldn’t work when he was home (or at least awake). He took me at my word.
School itself is a big transition for us. I wrote more about that over here, how for two and a half years it was just me and him. Then I made enough money freelance writing to afford a sitter a few hours a week, and we lucked out with Katy. She took him on outings so I could hole up and work and be alone a minute while pregnant again.
Now with both kids, my oldest goes to school and I work around my youngest exploring his boundaries and the world.
We had hoped that the school day would allow me all the time needed to work so we can afford school, but that never quite goes according to plan.
I made my son a deal, though, and if I expect him to ever trust my word, I must hold myself to it. So that night I closed my laptop when he asked. For the time being, I don’t take my laptop into the living room on weekday evenings. I can sometimes sneak something quick on the iPad while their Dad takes care of bathtime, but I make every effort to be present for him, to play with him without him having to ask, and taking advantage of our few hours together.
I feel a stronger tug now that I’m doing work that I love again: a tug of war between feeling accomplished, making that deadline early, or playing Captain Hook for the billionth time. I may have to craft that sentence I lost again, wrapping my head around the idea after bedtime to enchant the words back to where they become the perfect combination of storytelling and call to action.
In the meantime, I hold to my word, brew more coffee and chase Peter Pan.