A luxury I’ve learned to allow myself is a scheduled day off before Christmas so I can finish the errands that inevitably pop up.
As I made my list this week and planned stops strategically, I thought of the old days, when I was a work-from-home mom with younger children and a more flexible schedule. Did I fully appreciate my life back then?
On my day off this week, after I delivered my children to their schools, I sat at a coffee shop for a full hour, visiting with a friend. We drank from real cups. We had a real conversation, making up for the quick texts we usually exchange.
I was able to shop at Trader Joe’s without jostling crowds. The lack of shoppers afforded me time to study the shelves, to investigate the latest ways cookie butter is being employed. There was no wait for a cashier, and no one standing behind me, anxious to move on.
Every other store was the same way. I found nearby parking spots. Merchandise was well stocked. Sales staff members, often harried by weekend crowds, were jovial. Pleasantries were exchanged all over the place.
Meanwhile, my to-do list was being whittled with ease. Bank deposit? Check! Gift cards for teachers? Check! Wrapping paper on sale? Check!
And then it all came to a grinding halt.
I dared to enter an arts and crafts store at noon — the time when working people manage to squeeze in an errand or two instead of eating a proper lunch.
Aisles were clogged. Spirits were low. I felt a little weak. (Perhaps because I hadn’t yet stopped for a proper lunch.)
I took my place in a winding queue sandwiched between registers and bins of stuff. Ribbons, costume jewelry, note cards, liquid soap, gummy bears the size of a newborn baby. Along the bottommost shelf were piles of small stuffed animals.
“I want this one!” squealed a tiny but strong voice behind me.
“We can put it on your Christmas list,” Tiny’s mom replied.
“Yes, ma’am. That would make me happy!”
There was the briefest pause and then, “I want this one, too!”
“We can put it on your Christmas list,” her mom said.
“Oh! Look at this one! I want this one!”
“We can put it on your Christmas list,” the world’s most patient mom repeated.
The line inched forward, getting all of us a little closer to the register and offering Tiny easy access to more fuzzy animals, all of which she desperately wanted. As soon as she’d pick up one big-eyed critter, she’d spot another she loved, discard the first and embrace the second.
At last, mom declared, “I will put the entire line of Ty Beanie Boos on your list. Every single one ever made. But we are not buying one now.”
I giggled to myself. I wanted to hug the mom. (I refrained.) And I remembered the “old days.”
Yes, I had a more flexible schedule, but I was also in charge of my own tiny, strong-willed people all day long. We didn’t complete errands with ease. Schedules were dictated by meals, nap times and, in the most treacherous of weeks, potty training. Damm children were responsible for tantrums of varying degrees all over town.
Did I enjoy every single moment? Nope. Was it a luxury to spend so much time with my children when they were very young? Absolutely.
I paid for my craft supplies. I walked to the minivan. I thought about Tiny and her mom.
I irrationally wanted time to slow down for them, for all of us parents who can’t believe how quickly these babes of ours grow and go to school and create wish lists that no longer include stuffed animals.
I re-entered the mundane. Dry cleaning dropped off? Check. Quick lunch? Check. Christmas card list compiled? Check.
Big hugs for my big people the moment they got home? Without a doubt.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.