I have lost more card and board games to preschoolers than is respectable, I believe. It's just one of the perks of being a stay-at-home mom. My days right now are full of matches. I play some combination of mini pool, Skip-Bo, Sorry, UNO, Doodle Dice, and Brain Quest every single day of my life.
A friend, in talking about phone apps and online games, said to me recently, "Nobody plays board games anymore." I didn't contradict her, but I was thankful that I actually do. Through board games I have taught colors, numbers, math, the alphabet, and fair play to all my children. Daniel is the only one at home now, and he loves them. (I like to think they're keeping my brain sharp as well.)
But my stay-at-home life has been full of more than those awkward folding boards and tactile game pieces of days gone by. A great many parks have I explored in this town, trying to give my city kids a taste of freedom as I scrambled on the play equipment behind them, and many green spaces are familiar old pals now after regular visits. Library story times, play dates, nap times and community classes have also been my friends in child rearing. I will not deny PBS, either, for I love its lessons and have always said very loyally and half-jokingly, "I have raised my kids on PBS - hours and hours of it!"
I realize my luck as a stay-at-home mom. I realize it when I am losing my temper after losing my patience. Then the kids say or do something goofy or karma smacks me in my ludicrous face by making me stub my toe or trip on toys, and I crack up before we all burst out laughing. The discipline goes out the window, but my sanity is saved by laughter. I know my blessings when I can watch my child's sleeping face for a moment during naptime quiet - missing them right after I was so desperate for them to sleep - or hear them laugh with that childhood laugh that is pure magic for inspiring joy but disappears somewhere around kindergarten. I know it when I'm there to silently hold them as they nurse a booboo. Every time we dance around the living room like apes, and I marvel at their agile, carefree moves I am aware of my good fortune.
Every week at least I find myself staring at my children's faces as they laugh, concentrate or tell a story, just marveling at the gift of knowing them and raising them and watching them grow. I get to experience all of these small but incalculably beautiful moments in time with them.
How miraculous is it? And yet sometimes I forget my luck, like in the morning rush to school when my kids decide to do anything rather than what I, like a drill sergeant, have barked out at them countless times, "Eat breakfast, shower, get dressed completely, brush hair, brush teeth, pack lunches!" It makes me want to rip out my freshly washed but wildly uncombed hair on the drive to school when they've done nothing but squabble from the time they woke up. Frustration prickles me when Daniel, who finally gave up naps this last busy December, comes to me continually as I'm writing and demands to be entertained despite the dozens of educational, creative toys cluttering our home. Irritation threatens to rule when I have chores to do or items to collect before we can leave the house for errands, and my little guy waits by the door and asks repeatedly in boredom, "Can we go yet?" I forget when I pick up the kids from school, and they seem to have been waiting all day just to resume their squabbles, or when I turn around at the grocery store to see my youngest ones scaling a stack of prepackaged food like it's El Capitan.
I have a selfish, unadventurous love of home, peace and quiet, so I have sadly been known to declare before my kids, "The constant fighting is my least favorite part of being a mom." And lately, I am ashamed to say, I have balked at all the running around we will have to do every day of our week save Sunday with the my kids' spring sports schedules. Amid the consistent disagreements between siblings, I have even cried out occasionally, "I just want peace and quiet. Can't I have peace and quiet?"
But instantaneously I feel like arresting my own words and trying them for ingratitude. No, I don't want peace and quiet, God knows. Thank God for my children's laughter, their interesting morning conversation for which we have so little time, all our child-parent dialogue on important issues, every cry of surprise, laughter or triumph as they play some rowdy game together while brutalizing the furniture. Thank God for it all, for he knows full well that I cannot imagine my life without my children. And it is true as well that I, if left to myself as a lover of home and quiet, would have far less interesting things to write about without all the energy, clamor, pain, joy, busyness and laughter wrapped up in the greatest love of my life: family.