Recently, I feel like Aura has been left holding the short end of the stick. To be sure, I really don’t know what the short end of a stick entails besides being short, but in this case I think it might involve less playing with your mother and possibly a dab of boredom.
There have been afternoons and evenings lately, with trying to build our business and meet unrelated, on-the-side work obligations, when I look at the clock and think, My god, I haven’t played with a Littlest Pet Shop creature for three days. Normally, this would be cause for great celebration and a really super parade, but right now it smacks a little of guilt.
Then again, guilt is as guilt does. We do still play. We still read. We still undertake large coloring/book-writing projects that involve several crayons being broken (it’s those House genes; Crayolas, much like stick figures, don’t stand a chance in our muscular yet remarkably feminine hands) and a flabbergasting number of plots involving aliens. We chat on the way to and from half-day kindergarten and swim class and dance lessons.
I guess the guilt stems from the fact that, lately, my laptop is constantly open, my phone is ever-present, my mind is almost always churning away with work-related thoughts, rather than Very Enthralling Beach Scenarios for Build-A-Bears. (Of which there is a shocking overabundance in this household, along with Build-A-Bear sandals, natty Build-A-Bear button-down shirts, and rather skimpy Build-A-Bear swimwear. Zebra-print swimwear.)
Sure, there are a few babysitter days here and there, chunks of hours when I dash off with my computer and pound away at breakneck speed. And over the past few years, after I’ve turned down yet another job offer or project because there just isn’t enough childcare in our current situation to make it happen, Adam has floated the possibility of a nanny, someone who would play for lengthy periods of time without taking breaks to check her e-mail while I sat upstairs checking mine. Someone who would play pretend for whole afternoons while I worked more hours, made more money, established more of the career that was once doing pretty well.
Nah, I always say. Maybe when she’s older, but not now, I say. Maybe, when she’s three, we can think about it. Or maybe when she’s four. Maybe then.
So, for the past several years, paid work has been squeezed in during naps, and during those precious two or three school-time hours, and during TV shows, and after bedtime. On weeks like the past few, work has been crammed in during Aura-please-go-play-more-by-yourself time, too. There has been fatigue. There has been some disappointment.
Today Aura turns five. And as I sit here, stroking her silky hair, laughing at her jokes, and wiping pink frosting off her suddenly five-year-old chin, I realize, as I should remember to do more often, that there has never, ever been regret.