This word uttered continuously through the day by my boys – aged four and six – has dominated my space and time for years.
From the moment my little boys wake up to the moment they go to bed, they need me. One wants me in the morning for his first cup of water; the other for his milk. They need me to make their breakfasts and lunches, wash their hair, their bums, help them get dressed… and so it goes on through the day.
Right now, they need me and they need my time. Sure, it feels amazing to know that I am just so wanted by these two little human beings.
There are times when I find these constant requests for my presence just downright exhausting. How can I be in two places at the same time, answering different questions, fulfilling different needs? Of course, I do it, just like other parents.
But sometimes, I just want my time back, greedily, all to myself. I dream of the day when I won’t be so needed when I can do as I please without thinking too hard about how it will affect my children’s needs.
At the same time, I realise that I need my boys as much as they need me right now because soon, there will come a day when they won’t have time for me anymore, they won’t need me like this anymore, leaving me with a bittersweet ache in my heart.
So here’s what I’d like to tell them.
In a few years, both of you will be too big to need me. You’ll be independent – perfectly capable of dressing and bathing yourselves, packing your own schoolbags, getting your own glass of water.
You might talk back to me when I ask you something or you might ignore me altogether in that typical teenager way.
Your sweet chatter about planets, dinosaurs and what you did at school, and your incessant questions to me about which animal is the most ‘powerfullest’ ever, will likely be replaced by monosyllabic words, grunts or even worse, silence.
Your impulsive hugs and kisses will be rare and still as precious as gold.
You probably won’t have time for me as your days and thoughts become filled with friends, hobbies, sports, studies and girls… and you know what? This is just fine, because it’s normal. It’s how the world works and it’s how children grow up and become adults.
But I also want you to remember the days when all my time was yours. All the time spent cooking you meals you asked for and didn’t eat, stuck in school traffic, watching you chew your food oh-so-slowly. The three hours I spent with a blinding headache to catch a two-minute glimpse of you in your school concert.
All this and more… it was not a waste of my time as I might have thought at the time.
Dedicating my time to these matters was as meaningful as those magical newborn day-night blurs when my time was irrelevant and all that mattered was you.
The long moments at dawn, dusk and in-between when it was just you at my breast and me, living in that precious moment.
For moments like that, time stood still.
Your neediness right now translates to love and trust. To understand that I am loved without limits is something I find hard to express with words (but I try).
My dream of having more time to myself right now is shattered by something as simple yet profound as two bear-hugs from you; a wide-eyed look from under long eyelashes that is pure love; by heartfelt utterances from you telling me how much you love me, how I am the best mummy in the world.
And I know there will come a time in my life when I wish I could have all those moments back – even the ones I sighed my way through.
In parenting, time is never lost or wasted. Time is precious, something never to be recovered. Time goes by too fast, and even faster, our little ones grow up. They won’t understand the value of time until they become parents themselves.
So mums and dads, the next time you find yourself wishing that you didn’t have to sit by your child for an hour, waiting for him to finish his meal, or you grudgingly reject that amazing job offer because you just can’t find the time to dedicate to it in the midst of child-rearing, stop.
Your time will come.
But the time you have now with your children won’t come back. Cherish each nano-second of it – it’s worth your time a million times and more.
Is time whizzing by too fast for you too, mums and dads? Are there moments when you too wanted more time to yourself? Tell us – just leave a comment below.