It was 9:30 when I finally leaned in to kiss her goodnight. She was the last one to get to, after tucking in her brother and her older sister in the bunk above her.
This one day of the week is always crazy for us. It’s always a later night than any other, and we just kind of roll with it. But, as I pulled back from our last exchange of a busy day, she had one more question to ask.
“Mom, can you make me an apron for my market tomorrow?”
I reminded her how late she was asking me. I asked if she really needed it. Then I asked for specs, even though I had no idea what the heck I had on hand to pull it together.
No. That was my first inner response. No, I can’t. It’s so late. And the day has already been so long. And I was looking forward to 30 minutes with Ron and a glass of wine before our eyes slammed shut.
This is every mom, right? Or every parent, I should say. The last minute requests. Or the requests that, at first blush, feel like they can’t be fulfilled. The posterboard. The shadow box. The specific shirt for the performance.
We can’t do it all, we think. Until we can.
Similar thoughts went through my head when my son (a few weeks ago) asked me to chaperone his field trip to the zoo, which had been the same day as the apron request. I don’t chaperone. I volunteer at events, but I’m not chaperone material, I always thought. I’m a pushover and I’d have the crazy bunch, for sure.
“Please,” he said. “Please. Please.”
So, that’s why I found myself on a school bus. With a bunch of kids. On a rainy day, with a boy who couldn’t stop linking his arm in mine and telling me how much he loved me and how I should sit next to him on the bus (as if I’d sit with some other kid).
And the same thing happened when my oldest needed a sweatshirt for the day after she asked because she left all of her other ones at her dad’s house. No, I can’t. It’s late. And, I’m tired.
But it fit perfect – a little “how she wanted it” big – but perfect, when I returned home with it just before bed a week before this bedtime request from her little sister.
I had already baked off six loaves of banana bread (two with her), cut each into thirds, and cut each of those into three slices – wrapped them and tied them with ribbon (with help from the girls), so she would be ready to run her market at school. But now, an apron was her perceived finishing touch.
I fit the whole field trip around work, getting up early to get some work done, trekking through the zoo, then trading soggy braids for business attire that night to attend an awards ceremony. Those few hours, though, were something he needed. He just wanted the time.
And now, so did she.
I could swing an apron. I had the fabric. I had the 10 minutes I’d need to make it. It wouldn’t cost a thing but my time before work. And that’s all she was asking for. My time. And my sick sartorial vision, obviously.
We’re not “things” people. We’re “experience” people. And I’m proud that we can walk into stores without any expectation of leaving with something. It’s important for me to instill in them the notion of earning something. Of understanding wants and needs, and choosing the responsible thing with some exceptions.
Like, we didn’t get to the talent show they had planned. But we will. Because today’s a whole new day, with no need to bake or attend awards ceremonies. And that was a want.
So when I look back on chaperoning a field trip, grabbing a sweatshirt late at night and whipping up an apron early in the morning – and I think about that want versus need debate – and check to make sure I’m not jumping at their every whim, I think I’m good.
Especially when I think of her face when I delivered the apron just after the school had finished its daily recognition of the Star Spangled Banner. She couldn’t have been more excited. And grateful.
Because time is a need. And I’ll give it until I run out.