As I sit here in my bedroom with the door closed, reflecting on the beauty of motherhood, I am distracted by the mess that surrounds me. A Trident bubble gum package lays open on the floor, half of the gum devoured in one shot judging by the trail of empty wrappers around it. An open bag of Cheetos sits atop my nightstand, and fluorescent orange crumbs creep up to the edge of the half-drunk mocha-something in a Starbucks cup. As I get up to pick up my kids' trash so carelessly strewn around my bedroom, I stumble on a discarded sneaker left in the middle of the floor.
Returning to the computer, I begin to frantically tap the keys, because I hear the squeals and peals of laughter wafting from the family room downstairs. I know it won't last. Any minute now, those happy sounds will turn into screams and tears. One of the kids will burst through the door, accusing the other of assault and battery in the hopes that I will I become judge and jury and hand down a stiff sentence. When, instead, I suggest they get focused on homework because the day is slipping away, the tears will miraculously dry up and they will be on their way.
Yes, this is the routine after 3 o'clock in the afternoon, so why, you may ask, did I not finish my work while they were at school? The answer, dear reader, is that I could not focus on myself and my own work because I was busy talking to teachers, making summer plans for the kids, and planning upcoming school events. And yet, when my 10-year-old comes home and asks "What did you do today?" in a tone suggesting I did nothing but lollygag, guilt washes over me. What did I do today?
Before I get too far down the list, I stop myself. Once again, I realize, I let his innocent question get to me. The fact is, he and his sister got up this morning, got dressed, had breakfast and made it to school on time with their homework done. They are courteous and well-mannered people. If all I did today was to reinforce the beauty of their spirits, then I have done plenty. Maybe tomorrow I will work on getting them to pick up after themselves. Or maybe I will just get a better lock for my room.
Tonya Lewis Lee is a writer and author in New York.