Quality versus Quantity

Every morning, without fail, my two year old asks, “Mommy, you going to work?” She looks up at me with those big brown droopy eyes, and frowns with genuine concern.

It breaks my heart every time I answer, “Yes, Vicky.”
I feel guilty to leave her when she pleads: “I wanna stay with you”, “I wanna work, too”, “Mommy, don’t leave”, “Mommy, I miss you.”

I feel like I’m abandoning her and her brother, failing them, by not being able to grant them this one wish.

This morning, she woke up and came to my room as usual, sniffing her giraffe blanky. “Mommy, you here?”

“I’m in the bathroom,” I said from my vanity where I was doing my makeup.

“Mommy, I sit too?”

I scooted over to the edge of the chair so Vicky could sit next to me. She adjusted the lighted mirror so she could see herself.

“Mommy, it’s my turn.” She took the blush brush from me and began to apply “Honey Lust” M.A.C. eyeshadow to her cheeks. I handed her a small eyeshadow applicator, and she selected another color which she commenced to dot madly below her brows.

“Mommy, I pretty?” She batted her long eyelashes at me and pouted her lips.

“Your beautiful!” I said squeezing and kissing her cheeks, and I meant it.

“And you know what? Your going to work with me today!”

She didn’t really say anything at first, but her eyes gleamed, and she sort of squealed. She held her face in her hands, and said excitedly, “I have to get dressed!”

I had promised my older daughter, Sofia, that I would leave work early to pick her up from school and take her to the mall to eat Johnny Rockets. So, I figured I’d make it a “take your daughter to work day”, as well.

We went to my office for about two hours, then came home to meet up with my sister so we could pick up Sofy and go to the mall together.

My husband and son were outside throwing around the football when we got there. I watched through the glass patio doors as they played catch. The goofy smiles on their faces as they chased each other across the yard; my son’s laughter when his dad grabbed him by the waist and lifted him high up in the air; the pure joy in their expressions made me want to stay and join them. I reached for the handle, but hesitated.

I was on my way out to spend the afternoon with my three girls–Sofy and Vicky, and my little sister Marta. She is seven years younger than me, so I always felt more like a momma, than a sister.

The boys needed their horseplay, and the girls needed their shopping and pampering, and eating at the food court, of course. I decided not to interrupt their bonding, and instead set off to pick up Sofy.

Sofy was really excited to see the three of us waiting for her by her locker. She got out of the line, pointing at us so her teacher could see we were there to pick her up. She grinned from ear to ear as she showed off her little sister to her friends and teacher.

“This is Vicky”, she said, smiling proudly as she introduced the mythical creature they had heard so many stories about.

“Mommy, can we go to the park,” Sofy begged in front of her classmates and teacher. I wouldn’t say no anyways, but when one of her best friends chimed in that he was going to the park, too, I quickly agreed.

Yes, one of her best friends is a boy, and he’s a cutie too. Needless to say, I’m in a heap of trouble when she gets older.

We watched the girls and Sofy’s classmates chase each other from tree to tree, just like the squirrels. I pushed Vicky on the swings, while Sofy played on the see-saw with her friends. The whole while Sofy smiled and laughed giddily, with that same emotion Vicky had expressed earlier that morning, and like Gaby while playing with his dad. If there is one commentary that is unanimous amongst people that know my daughter Sofia, it’s that she always has a beautiful smile on her face. You can’t fake that unwavering happiness.

At the end of the day, I suppose every parent fears that they don’t spend enough time with their kids. But, I firmly believe that the quality is just as important, if not more so, than the quantity.

Tentacles

My son and oldest daughter drew these pictures of me.
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You may have guessed my 4 year old boy, Gaby, drew the one on the left.

“Mommy, it’s you. You have 14 legs.”

If you count, there are actually fifteen tentacles, which is good because that means I’ve got at least one arm. I look like I belong a thousand leagues under the sea. I don’t know if he’s comparing me to Ursula or Oswald. In any case, I suspect I look fat.

Sofy gave me brown hair and nice big eyelashes—those are real, by the way. I’m also wearing what appears to be a red robe. Am I a disciple? Am I late for supper?

I’d never compare my self to Jesus or even esteem myself in the same league, but you have to admit, there appears to be a biblical reference here. Mary Magdalene? Perhaps. My middle name is Maria. Interestingly enough, my daughter didn’t give me any feet at all. AND, I also have only one hand in her drawing.

Should I be concerned about these too completely contrasting images? Despite the age difference and creative development of the artists, I can’t help but read into it. On one hand, I could be pretty speedy with all those feet. I could potentially get a lot accomplished, except I’ve only got that one hand. On the other foot, (I’ve only got the one hand) I ain’t goin’ anywhere without feet. But, I do have hair, full red lips (at least a bottom lip), and a flattering red robe that was hip circa 33 AD. AGAIN with the one hand thing. I’m probably hiding candy from them in the other.

What their drawings also have in common is a big smile. Phew, that’s a relief. More often than not, I find myself rushing the kids to get dressed, or brush their teeth; scolding them for tattle taleing, biting each other, yelling or making a mess with the toys. I begin to worry they’ll think I’m always mad, at them. It’s hard to keep a happy face at the end of a strenuous workday, but they have been anxiously waiting for me to get home. And they are happily obedient, as long as I devote every waking second to them.

It’s hard to divide your attention equally with each child, so I try to read and pray with them collectively each night.

Tonight, I read them a short book about the rainforest and some of its native inhabitants. Sofy was all ears, asking questions about the animals beyond the stated facts. For the most part, I couldn’t answer, and I wouldn’t make the answers up either.

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Parenting Tip: Kids are like elephants. (I never quite understood this phrase so I googled it) They never forget anything you say to them, so try your best to always give them true and simple facts, and peanuts if they’re not allergic.

While I was reading about Orangutans, my youngest, Vicky kept interrupting me, “Mommy….Mommy, I’m! Not! Sleepy!”

“O! Kay!,” I’d say and continue reading despite her unhappy disclaimer.

“Mommy, can I have leche? Two leches.”

“Yes, Gaby, as soon as I finish the story.” I proceed to read about the Toucans, Lemurs and Tarsiers, careful to show them each pictured animal before reading its name and factoid.

“Mommy, I’m scared,” Vicky whined, covering her face with her blanky as I started reading about the Green Tree Python. Sofy helped assuage her fears by adding wide eyed, “Those are REALLY dangerous.”

“Mommy, can I sleep here,” Gaby asked.

“Sure, climb up to bed.” Sofy has a bunk bed; although Gaby has his own room, he sleeps on the top bunk for the most part.

“No, I wanna sleep here,” he groans and points to the floor next to Sofy’s bed.

I want to argue against this, but it really can’t hurt. I try to let them enjoy the silly, harmless, though sometimes messy, things that seem to bring them such genuine joy—i.e. Play-Doh, bubbles, camping on the floor in your sister’s room.

“Mommy, I’m not sleepy,” a less energetic Vicky insists.

“Vicky, just count sheep. Count ten sheep like this, 1 sheep, 2 sheep, 3 sheep.” Sofy demonstrated, but yawned after 5 sheep. Is this actually working?

I finally wrap up the story, and prepare a makeshift sleeping bag on the floor for Gaby.

“Ok, everybody, let’s pray.” I thanked God for each of them; for daddy; “for Abuela Gladys,” my son interjected; “for ALL the family, Gaby,” Sofy corrected; I thanked Him for school, toys, crayons; “for M&Ms,” Gaby added excitedly, “and the new house!” We prayed for Mima’s health, for “Daddy ’cause he has a cough”, and “for Nicole’s hair to keep growing”.

Every night, Sofy prays for her friend who was diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of the first grade year. Thankfully, Nicole is in remission. Sofy was very excited when she saw that her friend’s hair was growing back.

When everyone seemed satisfied that we had prayed for, and been thankful for EVERYTHING, they still weren’t “sleepy”.

“Okay, I’ll sing you guys a song.” Nobody made a peep, so I started in right away.

Twinkle Twinkle is an obvious favorite for them, but I have several songs I enjoyed singing to them as infants, and even now. The Beatles, ‘A Hard Day’s Night‘; ‘The Way You Look Tonight‘ as performed by Frank Sinatra; and ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow‘ from The Wizard of Oz, are my personal favorites.

By the time I’m done singing, Vicky and Sofy are fast asleep. Gaby, quickly gives up camping, and shadows me as I first carry Vicky to her bed, then head to my room to shower and go to sleep, or rather, to write this blog.

He sits quietly in the bathroom until I am done with my shower, even though he can lay down with his dad who is already in bed.

“Mommy, can I sleep with you?”

“Of course,” I say wrapping my tentacles around him.

“I’m going to drink my leche and go to sleep, so I can snore like daddy,” he says grinning from ear to ear.

I smile and quietly say a quick prayer, “Dear Lord, Please don’t make me share a bed with the Predator AND Chewbacca. AMEN.”