Missing moments

I watched as the clock in my classroom turned to 3:10 p.m. I practically sprinted down the hall, then dashed through the parking lot and sped off to pick up my oldest child from school.

We plowed through the door, carrying backpacks, lunch bags and my work totes, as I was tackled by my two toddlers, before I could even sit everything down.

I didn’t have my coat and shoes off yet – and would have loved an opportunity to get out of my work clothes and take half a minute to get to the bathroom – but everyone needed a snack, my oldest needed to show me her work from the day, the baby wouldn’t let me put her down and there I was. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other.

Is it my children’s fault I’m exhausted from my work day of teaching 20 7-year-old students? Is it their fault I’m carrying our fourth child and I’m so fatigued that a nap is all I can dream about at that very moment? Is it their fault that all of my patience and tolerance already have been distributed and used up for the day and it feels there is not one single ounce of me left to give?

I find the monotony of some of my days more draining than anything else. I get up, drag myself out of bed, have our normal morning crazy rush of scooting children around, changing diapers and picking out the fourth outfit for my daughter that she is somewhat satisfied with, hastily pour bowls of cereal, then, as I take a quick glance in the mirror, catch a glimpse of what I’m about to head out in public looking like.

And then come the nighttime rituals: baths, hair, jammies, teeth, books and prayers. My husband and I almost have everything down to a science and move the kids through somewhat of a factory line, “Your turn, up on the stool. Open your mouth. Good, you’re done. Daddy’s waiting to dress you.”

There are times it’s painful for me to push through the same old routine, all the while thinking, “Did I even brush my teeth today? I know I didn’t brush my hair as I did another quick ponytail this morning before running out the door. Which reminds me, I’ll need to set my alarm a few minutes early since I’ll have to take my three-minute shower tomorrow morning since I didn’t today … or yesterday.”

We get so caught up in the daily routine, the typical chaos that comes with each day, that we are just going through the motions. There are times it leaves me emotionless. I just pray that everyone’s alive and healthy. To think that we survived another day (including myself), is a feat in itself.

As I find myself running on “cruise control,” sometimes for days at a time, it takes something to pull me out of it.

And the ironic thing of it is, it’s never some monumental, earth-shattering, life-changing act, but rather it’s some tiny act of love, a small moment (one of many that I can ensure I have missed over the past several days), that leave me standing speechless, in total awe of why I wanted to be a mother in the first place.

“Mommy? Mommy? Mommmmmmy?” The incessant calling of my “name” truly happens more than 23 hours out of the day so naturally, I don’t or am unable to turn for each call.

However, then I stop and think how many times I’ve missed an “I love you,” for no apparent reason, just because they wanted to tell me. Or how many times they actually needed me or my help for a legitimate reason. And then there are the times that I turn to my toddler after he has demanded my attention several times in a row, and he just smiles his most perfect smile. That was all he wanted.

He wanted my attention to simply smile at me as his way of showing his affection. Or maybe it’s the time we are followed around by a determined little toddler for the longest time as they chase us with a crinkly piece of paper, their special artwork they had made just for us.

The times I take for granted of how much I ask of our oldest daughter. I must say her name almost as much as I hear my own. “Can you get this for Mommy?” “Wait, where’s the baby? Oh no, go find her. Is she in there?” “Could you please play with your brother and sister while Mommy tries to get this done?” The demands and requests I make of her must be incessant at times.

But I’ll never forget the night I took her aside and apologized for being snappy with her when it wasn’t even her I was frustrated with.

She sat on my lap, fell into my chest, wrapped her arms around my neck and whispered in my ear tearfully, “Thank you, Mommy. That just means so much to me. Thank you, Mommy.”

At that moment I was sure my heart was breaking into pieces.

I know that she is my big girl – however, she also wants to be picked up and held, and consoled just as a baby or toddler would.

As an adult, I think we can relate; we all would love that reaffirmation of total affection and love at our fingertips.

I’ve come to realize that although I find myself more times than not, having close to an empty tank and feeling that I can’t give my children or husband what they really deserve, it turns out it doesn’t matter. They just want me. However little it may be.

They want my focus and attention and to know that when I’m with them, my attention is not being held hostage by the computer or my phone or the daunting list of work that awaits me.

As you find yourself buckled in for your typical daily adventure, no matter what that may look like, remember to be in tune to the moments that are constantly surrounding you.

There are hundreds that are available to us on a daily basis. How many are we not only not witnessing, but not experiencing?

Truth be told, my children aren’t going to remember days that we spend together, but rather the special moments that we have shared. And our very best moments are never planned.

All they need are open hearts in order to embrace them before they slip away.

Make every moment matter.

Long is a local author and mother. Her column is published on the third Sunday of each month.

For a personalized copy of her book, “101 Moments of Motherhood, contact her at thelongs777@gmail .com.